- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A key lawyer in Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration wasn’t qualified for his position and was paid $22,600 that he shouldn’t have received while on military leave, according to a report released Thursday.

Department of Administrative Services chief legal counsel Ryan Lamb also failed to record vacation days and was promoted and given major raises even though he didn’t have a resume on file, State Auditor Mary Mosiman wrote in a report.

Lamb, who left the administration last year, was a key figure in a scandal involving confidential settlement agreements reached with departing state employees who had filed grievances alleging a variety of wrongdoing. In some cases, Lamb offered extra compensation if those complaining would agree to keep quiet, a practice that Branstad said he was unaware of and later banned.

Mosiman’s office launched its review after a whistleblower alleged that Lamb was improperly allowed to continue receiving his salary while he was out of state on a lengthy military leave in 2013.

Lamb, who serves in the Army Reserves, was accepted as an Army lawyer and received orders to attend training in Georgia and Virginia from June 16 to Oct. 3, 2013. Under state policy, employees on military leave can receive their salaries for up to 30 days per year. After that, they are supposed to use accrued vacation time or go on unpaid status.

Instead of following that policy, then-DAS Director Michael Carroll made a verbal arrangement for Lamb to continue acting as DAS chief legal counsel and receiving his salary during the military training, the audit found. That deal allowed Lamb to collect $13,100 in pay and benefits that he shouldn’t have while on leave and to obtain an excessive vacation payout of $9,537 when he later left his government job, the audit found.

Lamb told auditors that he checked his DAS email when possible during the day and worked nights and weekends. But his timesheets falsely reflected that he kept a regular schedule, the audit found. During his tenure, Lamb’s timesheets were improperly certified by a personnel assistant and not approved by Lamb and his supervisor as required by policy, the report found. He didn’t record a single vacation day in his 34-month tenure, even when he traveled to Florida to take the bar exam.

State Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said Lamb was emblematic of a group of now-departed state officials “who just stepped out of state policy right and left.”

“This is a guy who was hired on a sweetheart deal without a qualification process, he was underpowered for the job, he didn’t follow state law, and, oh by the way, he double-dipped while he did all this,” McCoy said. “The taxpayer got screwed six times on the deal.”

McCoy said the department had assured lawmakers last year that Lamb’s military leave was handled appropriately.

Lamb and Carroll - fired by Branstad over the settlements scandal last year - didn’t immediately respond to Thursday voicemails seeking comment.

Branstad’s spokesman, Ben Hammes, called their actions inappropriate.

“Corrective actions have now been taken and the governor has full trust in Janet Phipps as director of the Department of Administrative Services,” Hammes said.

Phipps said the department now follows state policies on military leave, timesheet approval and employee qualifications. The department is reviewing whether to seek reimbursement from Lamb, who now works as an attorney for The Weitz Co., a construction firm.

Lamb was hired as the DAS’ chief legal counsel in 2011, three years after he obtained his Iowa law license. His job was reclassified months later to a position that required five years of legal experience, which he didn’t have, the report found. In all, his salary increased by 23 percent in his first 21 months of employment, after a major raise was made retroactive.


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