Legislative Oversight Committee and the film office

“Oversight’s job has always been to oversee, but we’ve also learned to be patient,” Representative Vicki Lensing said.  “When there are investigations going on, we sometimes have to let that happen.”

The Legislative Oversight Committee met this morning and during the first four minutes of the meeting, Representative Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City) — the panel’s co-chair — made some comments about the film office scandal.  The committee won’t be opening an investigation today.  (The panel’s other co-chair, Senator Rich Olive (D-Story City), spoke with Radio Iowa earlier this week but said nothing during the opening of today’s meeting.)

Lensing actually began the meeting by advising the committee that a group of high schoolers might be along over the lunch hour to talk with them about state government.  Lensing said the “second issue I want to address” was the film office. After Lensing spoke for about a minute, Representative Ralph Watts (R-Adel), started to speak.  “Is there nothing that we can discuss about that at this point in time?  Three employees have left,” Watts began  That sentence can barely be heard on the audio recording of the meeting because Watts forgot to turn his microphone on in order to be heard in the cavernous meeting room.

“Can’t hear you,” Senator Tom Courtney (D-Burlington), said from across the table.

“Use your microphone,” Lensing advised Watts.

Watts began speaking and by the sixth word in his next sentence, he’d switched on his microphone. “I know the attorney general is involved with that at this point in time.  But is there nothing that we could discuss at this point in time to…”

Lensing interjected: “We don’t really have any information yet. I think as the attorney general works through it and the auditor works through it, and the Department of Revenue, there will be things that we can, that they will be able to share with us and then questions that we will be able to ask.  We just can’t at this point in time.”

Watts continued. “Are we assuming, then, that the govenror will not reinstate any of the tax credit issues or reinstate that program until, I would hope that the legislative group would have some review of that before it’s reinstated,” Watts said.

Lensing responded: “You know, I can’t speak for the governor.”

Watts replied: “I understand.”

Lensing continued:  “But I assume that he will also kind of be waiting anxiously to hear back from the different groups that are investigating this and, you know, and I think we will as a committee go ahead and proceed as we have in the past, you know, to ask those questions and see what we need to do or what things, you know, if there’s legislation that needs to be fixed as we’ve done with other issues, we will proceed in that fashion.”

Watts said: “Thank you.”

Lensing said: “All right.”

After that illuminating two-minutes-and-17-seconds [Download MP3 file], the meeting moved on to the next topic.  About an hour later, Watts issued the following written statement on the matter:

The following is a statement by Rep. Ralph Watts (R-Adel) in response to the Democratic leadership’s refusal to investigate the recent film tax credit scandal:

“The Oversight Committee has a history of looking into scandals such as Atalissa and CIETC and providing open and honest discussion for Iowans.

“The Legislature approved the film tax credit and has a responsibility to find out why the program has been mismanaged and abused.  Frankly, the only thing keeping that discussion from happening today is politics.”

Watts is the Ranking Member of the Government Oversight Committee.

Here is yesterday’s latter from Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg) and House Speaker Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) about the Oversight Committee and a film office investigation:

September 23, 2009
Dear Rep. Paulsen and Sen. McKinley:

In response to your September 21 letter, we are writing to assure you that we share the same goal: To provide the taxpayers of Iowa with an open and honest account of the actions of the Iowa Film Office and the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

For that reason, we echo our previous statements that it was proper for Governor Culver to announce plans yesterday to involve Attorney General Tom Miller, State Auditor David Vaudt and Department of Revenue officials to ensure that every fiscal and legal avenue is pursued against anyone who has abused this program.

At this time, however, we believe that it would be imprudent for the Oversight Committee to bring officials from the Department of Economic Development/Film Office, State Auditor’s office, Attorney General’s office or Department of Revenue before the committee because it could impede or interrupt this joint investigation. We are especially concerned about the effect of such testimony on any potential criminal proceedings in light of Chief Deputy Auditor Warren Jenkins’s statement that criminal charges against some individuals are possible.We will keep your request on file and we will encourage our Oversight Committee members to invite the appropriate officials to appear before the committee at the appropriate time.

Representative Pat Murphy, House Speaker
Senate President Jack Kibbie, Senate President

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Hilarious. This committee investing corruption, bahahaha. Th law was a contrived sham.
    Since they couldn’t discuss the current scandal they could have used the time to direct a few questions to the Vice Chair who knows a little about mismanaging funds. Get realz peeople! http://www.whotv.com/news/who-story-westside-boxing-062509,0,5891372.story