State GOP votes to put some documents off limits in state auditor’s investigations
DES MOINES — Republicans in the Iowa Senate have voted to put new limits on documents and information Democratic State Auditor Rob Sand’s office may access as it investigates state government operations and whistleblower complaints. Republican Senaotr Mike Bousselot of Ankeny said things that “aren’t relevant” to auditor’s office investigations should be off limits.
“Iowans trust that that information is going to be kept safe not only from inappropriate disclosure,” Bousselot said, “but also from the wrong eyes seeing it that are unrelated to what they’re doing.”
Sand is the only Democrat holding a state executive office. Senator Janice Weiner, a Democrat from Iowa City, said the bill essentially requires Republican Governor Kim Reynolds to OK any investigation of an executive branch agency. “This is now a waste, fraud and abuse promotion bill…This bill doesn’t protect privacy,” Weiner said. “It only undermines independent oversight.”
Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls said the bill is written to prevent the auditor from investigating the new program giving state funded savings accounts to the parents of private school students. “The taxpayer watchdog is the auditor of state,” Wahls said. “This bill…is not just shortening the leash on the watchdog, it’s putting them in the crate and locking the door.”
Senate Republicans passed the bill a day after Sand voted against using taxpayer dollars to pay a legal settlement to former University of Iowa players who alleged the football program was a racially hostile environment, but Republican Senator Jason Schultz of Schleswig said the bill was drafted in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling that there are no limits on what the state auditor may investigate. “That does seem just a bit drastic,” Schultz said. “There should be some protections by the state, in Iowa Code, for Iowa citizens.”
Schultz said he was “creeped out” by Democrats’ complaints and suspects the bill would limit something the state auditor is planning to investigate. Sand sent an email to senators a few hours before the late night debate, saying the bill would have a “catastrophic impact” on the ability of the auditor’s office to conduct oversight of state government.