SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County attorney will investigate whether there are sufficient financial safeguards when the nonprofit agency headed by County Board Chairman George Boykin receives taxpayer money.
On Tuesday, County Auditor Pat Gill for the second time in two months told County Board members he wants more oversight of how agencies spend money from the county. He has pushed for more transparency in funding decisions and how issues are discussed by board members.
Gill protested a bill for more than $15,000 for gang prevention programs provided by the Sanford Community Center, where Boykin serves as executive director. Gill said there isn't a contract supporting payment of the bill.
Gill on Friday asked County Attorney P.J. Jennings to look into the possible conflict of interest on public contracts. Jennings confirmed that he'll look into the matter quickly and report back to the County Board.
"We need to put it at the top of the list," Jennings said.
Board members after the meeting said they look forward to Jennings' ruling and whether additional paperwork must be provided by the county so the Sanford Center can be paid.
Iowa Code Section 331.342 governs conflicts of interest in public contracts. The short section specifies that "an officer or employee of a county shall not have an interest, direct or indirect, in a contract with that county. A contract entered into in violation of this section is void."
"The county is out of compliance with it," Gill said. He said there is no request for proposal for the work or a contract showing what services would be provided.
Boykin said Gill's attempt to slow the payment was "a blind-sided surprise," since Sanford Center bills have been paid for years without protest.
"We've operated like this for a period of time and there's been no issue," Boykin said.
The County Board approved that and all other weekly bills on Tuesday, with Boykin abstaining from the vote.
The Woodbury County Prevention Commission for At-Risk Youth was created in 2011 to address issues that affect young people. The commission uses benchmarks and reviews financial documents to determine what organization each year should receive a pool of money to be spent on social programs.
Since its creation, the commission has recommended its entire share be awarded to the Sanford Center and its Gang Outreach Program. The amount this year is $186,925. Boykin in 2014 and prior years has abstained from the board's funding decisions to the Sanford Center.
Gill protested the most recent payment, of $15,577, to the Sanford Center, which represented one month of services.
Boykin said it is troubling that Gill is making surprise announcements at board meetings.
"He doesn't communicate well with the rest of the board on issues like this," Boykin said. "I don't understand where he is coming from at all."
Board members Jackie Smith, of Sioux City, and Mark Monson, of Sergeant Bluff, said they're looking forward to Jennings' ruling.
"If we are in the wrong, we need to fix it, with a written contract," Smith said.
Said Monson, "If we are doing it wrong, we need to get that right. What that entails, I don't know. It depends on what (Jennings) comes up with."
Board member David Tripp, of Sioux City, said a solution could be if Boykin abstains from voting each time a bill from the Sanford Center comes to the County Board for payment.
Board member Larry Clausen, of Sioux City, said Gill is likely misguided.
"I don't think there is a problem. If there is, it has to be shown to me," Clausen said.