Archive for the ‘Heroes Hotline / Whistleblower’ Category

Anonymous tips welcomed by Auditor

February 1, 2018

Editor’s note 10/29/2019 – The Heroes Hotline was cancelled earlier this month due to a lack of funding by the Linn County Board of Supervisors. Feel free to email me at LCAuditor@protonmail.com if you wish to report a tip. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Today, the Office of Linn County Auditor (LCA) is unveiling an anonymous tip reporting service called Heroes Hotline (HH). The purpose of HH is to allow anyone including employees, contractors, vendors, and residents to seek answers to questions related to Linn County’s funds, accounts, and tax dollars.

At present, HH is the first and only way a person can truly report a tip related to the County and remain anonymous. And the HH has another feature which vastly increases its potential for success. It allows a tipster the ability to continue communicating with the LCA after the tipster’s initial report without revealing their identify.

For example, the LCA may require additional information or clarification in order to investigate a tip. The LCA would leave a message for the tipster in the HH and if/when the tipster accesses the HH, he or she would see the message from the LCA.

The reverse applies when the tipster updates his/her tip except the LCA is automatically notified by the system when an update is made to the original tip. The LCA does NOT have access to the IP address or any other data which could be used to identify the tipster because the HH is hosted on a third party platform, i.e., on Navex Global’s EthicsPoint

Tipsters beware! In order to remain anonymous, tipsters should not use County-owned devices, or the County’s Wi-Fi or network services.

The LCA would like to emphasize that the primary purpose of HH is to allow tipsters to seek answers to questions related to Linn County’s funds, accounts, and tax dollars because the LCA has the statutory power to audit those funds and accounts for compliance with State and Federal laws. While the LCA will try to be responsive to reports on other issues, the LCA recognizes that other County departments, managers, and elected officials may be better suited to address those issues.

For example, if an employee is having issues with his/her manager and the issues are not being resolved to the employee’s satisfaction, then the appropriate way to address the situation may be to escalate to the County’s Human Resources department or to the manager’s manager.

Auditor Miller says, “I hope no one ever needs to use the Heroes Hotline, but if they do, they may truly be a hero and I stand ready to assist them to the extent possible.” – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Top secret: How many of our deceased were cremated?

January 30, 2018

How many cremation permits were signed by the Linn County Medical Examiner (ME) from 1/1/2017 – 12/31/2017? According to not one, but two assistant county attorneys, I have no legal remedy to find out.

Forget about Iowa’s Open Records laws (Code of Iowa Chapter 22) – medical examiner records are confidential public records. And forget about my power to audit – Code of Iowa section 331.502(41) – the fees the medical examiner receives for signing cremation permits have never been deposited into a county fund or account so there is no county fund or account to audit. This reminds of that greasy pig contest my 4-H club held in the 70s.

Earlier this month, I blogged about How much do cremation permits cost taxpayers? I wanted to know how much revenue is generated by the ME for signing cremation permits since the County’s taxpayers are ultimately paying this death tax. It seemed like a simple question. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors had little interest in knowing the answer.

I did not let it go.

Last week, I sent an open records request to our medical examiner – see attached. Today, I received a reply from an assistant county attorney – see attached. And now that I have reviewed a cremation permit form, I realize I don’t need and I don’t want all of the data on the form. But the ME could redact everything on the form except for the name of the decedent and a date, and I could count the number of signed permits to determine the fees he earned. Or at the very least, the ME could give me a notarized statement as to the number of cremation permits he signed in 2017.

Or the Board of Supervisors could order the ME to disclose the number of cremation permits he signed … or threaten to cancel his contract if he didn’t disclose the numbers. What are the odds of that happening?

So are the taxpayers of Linn County paying their ME $30K, $70K, or $100K per year for him to sign cremation permits? How many Linn County residents are being cremated per year? The answers to those questions are top secret until someone in a position of power asks them … and discloses the facts. And that’s not me. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Response from assistant county attorney on 1-26-2018 re Public records request for copies of signed cremation permits.pdf

Public records request to Dr Linder – ME dated 1-23-2018.pdf

Vote buying, campaigning, or official business?

September 15, 2017

At least one locally elected official has a hard time differentiating when he is performing his official duties versus campaigning. He cannot seem to keep his roles or his wardrobe straight.

I have seen a similar occurrence on Facebook, e.g., is that comment that a county supervisor just made a campaign comment or an official comment? If the comment was posted between 8am and 5pm, and they are Linn County elected officials, i.e., full-time elected officials, then the only comments they should be making are official comments.

So imagine my surprise when I received my Linn Newsletter this week and saw Supervisor Chairperson Brent Oleson on the front page presenting an oversized $20,000.oo Linn County check to the Good Ole Boys. And then realized he was wearing his Re-Elect Oleson Supervisor t-shirt. Come on Brent! Do you have any ethics?

And even if wearing campaign clothes is legal while giving away 20,000 tax dollars, why do you have to mix campaigning with official business? Don’t you remember me confronting you about wearing your campaign clothes to official Board of Supervisors meetings? Why did you think it was OK to present an oversized Linn County check wearing your campaign t-shirt?

Brent, there is something wrong with your What’s Right versus What’s Wrong meter. And you need to fix it! This photo of you presenting $20,000.oo makes it appear that you are buying votes. And that makes every elected official in Iowa look bad. -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor
20170915111348225.pdf

An anonymous inquiry about a claim

July 11, 2017

The attachment contains a list of claims aka bills to be approved by the Linn County Board of Supervisors tomorrow (7/12/2017). Generally, the bills are approved for payment on a weekly basis and rarely is a bill rejected. And these claims are published in the County’s four official newspapers. But who subscribes to the newspapers? And who reads the Legals and reviews the claims?

Well, someone is reviewing the claims because just this week I received a clipping from the Gazette with a claim circled in red ink and the words: PLEASE LOOK INTO. We have looked into the claim and everything looks legitimate so if we are missing something, whoever mailed the letter to me is going to have to be more specific. If you are the anonymous person, please either send me another anonymous letter or email me at auditor@q.com – a non-government owned email account setup for the purpose of maintaining a degree of confidentiality.

If you want to receive an email with our weekly claims, please send an email to auditor@linncounty.org and we will add you to our weekly distribution list. I think you will find our email with an attachment easier to read than the list published in the newspapers. In addition, Linn County has claims posted on the web going back to 12/11/2013   -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Linn County List of Claims paid 7-12-17.pdf

Kudos to Rick Davis

May 4, 2016

Thank you Linn County resident Mr. Rick Davis. Thank you for asking questions!  Thank you for not giving up!

What did Rick do? He frequently walks about Morgan Creek Park (MCP).  And he is aware that the County acquired land and enlarged MCP in the last year of two.  So last Fall, when Linn County Conservation seeded the newly acquired land with prairie grasses, Rick took notice.  And this Spring, when Rick noticed someone plowing under the seeded land, Rick took notice and started asking questions.

Rick tried to contact three County Supervisors who did not respond to him in a timely manner. So he contacted me and I posed his questions to the management of Linn County Conservation and the Board of Supervisors.  I received a reply from the Director of Conservation.

Sure enough, Rick was right!

An employee of the farmer who previously rented the land had mistakenly plowed under several acres which had been seeded with prairie grasses.  The cost to re-seed could be several  thousands of dollars and Conservation is discussing the situation with the Linn County Attorney.  No one outside of Conservation would likely be the wiser if Rick had not paid attention and asked questions.

Rick, I know you did not do what you did to get attention. You did it to correct a situation.  You did the right thing!  Thank you Rick!  -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Whistleblower protection

December 9, 2010

We have laws to protect local government whisteblowers.  Right?  Yes, we do have a law (see 70A.29), but if you get fired from your job for whistleblowing, you might be financially ruined or die before you get the chance to be vindicated in court or elsewhere.

Our State’s law is below.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors has approved two policies related to whistleblowing.  One is Whistleblower Protection and the other is Reporting and Investigation of Fraud or Financial Misconduct.  To my knowledge, neither has been utilized since being approved on March 28, 2007.  Then again, maybe someone blew the whistle and it didn’t make the news?

70A.29  REPRISALS PROHIBITED -- POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS
-- PENALTY -- CIVIL REMEDIES. 
1.  A person shall not discharge an employee from or take or fail
to take action regarding an employee's appointment or proposed
appointment to, promotion or proposed promotion to, or any advantage
in, a position in employment by a political subdivision of this state
as a reprisal for a disclosure of any information by that employee to
a member or employee of the general assembly, or an official of that
political subdivision or a state official or for a disclosure of
information to any other public official or law enforcement agency if
the employee reasonably believes the information evidences a
violation of law or rule, mismanagement, a gross abuse of funds, an
abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public
health or safety.  This section does not apply if the disclosure of
the information is prohibited by statute. 
2.  A person who violates subsection 1 commits a simple
misdemeanor. 
3.  Subsection 1 may be enforced through a civil action. 
a.  A person who violates subsection 1 is liable to an
aggrieved employee for affirmative relief including reinstatement,
with or without back pay, or any other equitable relief the court
deems appropriate, including attorney fees and costs. 
b.  When a person commits, is committing, or proposes to
commit an act in violation of subsection 1, an injunction may be
granted through an action in district court to prohibit the person
from continuing such acts.  The action for injunctive relief may be
brought by an aggrieved employee or the county attorney.

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