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Monday, June 17, 2024

State Auditor says prison time warranted for stealing $10,000+ tax dollars

State Auditor says prison time warranted for stealing $10,000+ tax dollars

State Auditor Rob Sand says it’s time to change state law so there’s mandatory prison time for anyone convicted of large scale theft of taxpayer funds. Sand defines “large scale” theft as anything over $10,000.

“If you steal $50 from the concession stand at the Decorah swimming pool…you probably don’t need to see prison time for that,” Sand says, “but if you’re in a position of trust, in a position of power over a large amount of tax dollars and you’re abusing them over time, absolutely you should.”

Sand says “red flags” about bookkeeping are showing up in several of the audits his office has done for small Iowa communities and counties. While it can be hard to find people in rural Iowa with the skills to manage local government accounts, Sand says that “can’t excuse” everything.

“If you are on a city council, if you are on the board of supervisors, you have a fiduciary responsibility and you’ve got to be careful about who it is you’re hiring…and you want to make sure that you are, as I like to say, leading others not into temptation,” Sand says. “Ask for the bank records. Look at them every month.”

Sand cites that kind of oversight in a case he prosecuted when he worked in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. “There was a woman who was in charge of the accounts for the Mahaska County Soil and Water Conservation Society. She also was in charge of the accounts for Poweshiek and some guy on the Poweshiek board, every month, would say: ‘Well, let’s see the bank records,'” Sand says. “She stole $200,000 from Mahaska County, didn’t touch a penny in Poweshiek.”

Sand made his comments this weekend on an episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS. Last week, Sand’s office released an audit that found the small southwest Iowa town of Lorimor had a quarter of a million dollar budget deficit. The town’s clerk had been fired by a different city in 2013 after auditors found she’d mishandled $27,000 in that city’s accounts.

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