- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s chief deputy conducted virtually no state business by email during his final seven months of employment and only had to show up to work four days a week, sometimes very briefly, according to records and a former colleague’s detailed account Thursday.

Schultz told deputy Jim Gibbons that he was only required to report to the office four days weekly even as he kept his $126,000 annual salary, State Auditor Mary Mosiman told the Associated Press. Mosiman, who was Schultz’s other deputy at the time, said she was present when Schultz gave Gibbons that direction. She said sometimes Gibbons left soon after swiping his badge at the Lucas Building in Des Moines and checking in because there was no work for him.

“I don’t know what he did for a good portion of the day, if he was even there for a good portion of the day,” said Mosiman, whose office was near Gibbons‘. “I can say there were some days he wasn’t there very long.”

Mosiman’s account and emails released by Schultz’s office raise questions about whether the $80,000 that Gibbons collected in pay between June 1, 2012, and his Dec. 31, 2012, resignation was justified. The compensation included more than $4,000 in pay for “unused vacation” time he cashed out in January 2013.

Democrats accused Schultz of cronyism after the AP reported Wednesday that he kept Gibbons, a former Republican congressional candidate and Iowa State wrestling coach, on the payroll for seven months after deciding to eliminate his job and transfer his duties to Mosiman. Some Republicans also expressed disappointment in Schultz, a Republican who is leaving after one term as secretary to run for Congress.

Brad Anderson, a Democrat running for secretary of state, called on Schultz to release records showing what Gibbons did to earn his salary.

“If Secretary Schultz fails to produce evidence that the public received a benefit in return for Mr. Gibbons‘ pay, the taxpayers should be immediately reimbursed for the $80,000 in wasteful spending,” Anderson said.

Schultz said Tuesday that, “as far as I know, he was there on a daily basis.” He didn’t respond to an interview request Thursday.

Gibbons sent only a dozen emails from his account during the seven-month period and many either didn’t relate to state business or involved forwarding emails to others. Emails show he had lunch with an Iowa State administrator, met with a state benefits specialist, and attended an Iowa Insurance Committee meeting.

The final email he sent was in October 2012, as the office was running the presidential election. It was to a partner in a West Des Moines accounting firm to schedule a meeting to discuss “an opportunity.”

The secretary of state’s legal counsel, Charlie Smithson, said he was still searching for any other work Gibbons produced.

Gibbons, now president of an Ames bank, hasn’t returned repeated messages seeking comment, including one Thursday.

Schultz said that he decided to eliminate the job Gibbons held for 17 months in May 2012 under a cost-saving restructuring in which his two deputy positions were combined. Schultz also laid off four union workers to save money.

But rather than dismiss Gibbons within weeks like he did with those workers, Schultz said he looked into whether he could get severance pay for his political appointee. When he learned state rules would not allow that, Schultz said he sent Gibbons home to work during June 2012 while Mosiman took over his duties. Gibbons sent no emails that month.

Schultz said he directed Gibbons to return to the office July 5, 2012, to “serve as a resource” as necessary. Schultz said Gibbons was no longer a manager, but that he didn’t consider cutting the salary tied to his Public Service Executive 6 rank, for high-level state supervisors.

Pressed to explain Gibbons‘ duties, Schultz said that he didn’t micromanage him and Gibbons was expected to be available by phone when he wasn’t in the office. Gibbons was allowed to stay until he either found a job or Dec. 31, 2012, whichever came first.

Schultz said he didn’t want to fire Gibbons sooner, in part, because his wife was recovering from a serious illness.

“Knowing Jim’s personal situation, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy on him,” Schultz said.

Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, said that Schultz didn’t show the same concern for his daughter, Pamela Conner, who was fired in 2011 just months after her husband died. Schultz fired Conner and other employees in his first months in office after defeating the Democratic incumbent, Michael Mauro, in the November 2010 election.

“You know he didn’t have that empathy for my daughter when he fired her. He fired her when she had just been a widow for four months,” Dearden said Thursday on the Senate floor. “He didn’t give her an interview. He didn’t talk to her. He just fired her.”

Dearden concluded by telling Schultz, “You are a disgrace.”

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