- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A state senator demanded an audit Tuesday into an arrangement in which Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz allowed his top political appointee to keep a $126,000 annual salary for seven months after taking away his management duties.

Sen. Liz Mathis said Schultz’s chief deputy Jim Gibbons appears to have been a “no-show employee” for months before he resigned in December 2012, as reported last week by The Associated Press. She said Schultz, a Republican leaving the office to run for Congress, “owes Iowa taxpayers an explanation and an apology.”

“Media reports have revealed that he handed out a six-figure salary to an employee who simply wasn’t working,” said Mathis, D-Robins, the co-chair of the Legislature’s administration and regulation budget subcommittee. “This is disgraceful.”

In a letter to State Auditor Mary Mosiman, Mathis requested a special review to look at whether Gibbons was performing any duties or tasks between June and December 2012; what his work hours were; and whether he was supervising anyone. In an interview, Mathis said she hoped a review would show whether any other former Secretary of State employees were paid after their jobs were cut.

Schultz spokesman Chance McElhaney dismissed Mathis‘ request as “blatant election-year politics at its worst.” He said the office ultimately saved money by eliminating Gibbons‘ job, because it has operated with one less manager since he resigned.

“He felt it would be helpful for Mr. Gibbons to be available as a resource through the transition, and that is his decision to make as an elected official,” McElhaney said.

Schultz told the AP last week that he decided in late May 2012 to eliminate the chief deputy position held for 17 months by Gibbons, a former Iowa State wrestling coach. He said he sent Gibbons to work from home during June after discovering he wasn’t allowed to offer Gibbons severance pay. He said he then told Gibbons to report to the office daily to serve as a resource from July through December, but that his duties weren’t clear.

Records released last week show Gibbons conducted virtually no state business by email during that period, and Secretary of State legal counsel Charlie Smithson said Tuesday he couldn’t find any other work that Gibbons had signed.

Mathis said she doesn’t know how Gibbons could be involved in a “management transition” from home, or why it would take so long.

Mosiman, who was appointed auditor by Gov. Terry Branstad last year, was Schultz’s other deputy at the time and took over Gibbons‘ duties. She said last week that Gibbons was only required to report to the office four days per week and that sometimes he left shortly after arriving because there was no work for him. Gibbons kept his rank as a Public Service Executive 6, a designation used for some of the more important and stressful state management jobs.

Mosiman, a Republican who is seeking a full four-year term as auditor in the November election, said Tuesday she would recuse herself from handling Mathis‘ request. Her deputies will decide whether to conduct a special investigation or to audit Gibbons‘ work as part of an annual review of the Secretary of State’s Office, she said.

Mosiman said last week that she objected to Gibbons‘ arrangement, particularly after four union employees who’d been with the office longer than him were laid off to cut costs, but that Schultz ignored her concerns.

Schultz said last week that he didn’t dismiss Gibbons immediately, in part, because his wife was recovering from a serious illness at the time. But that explanation drew criticism from Democratic Sen. Dick Dearden, who said Schultz fired his daughter in 2011 just months after she became a widow.

Gibbons hasn’t responded to repeated messages, including one left Tuesday at the Ames bank where he now works. He collected roughly $80,000 in compensation during that period, including more than $4,000 after his resignation for cashing out unused vacation hours.

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