Parse this

Dick Oshlo, the acting director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development (who is also the governor’s budget director) and the agency’s spokesperson, have argued in the last 24 hours that the state is not under a contractual obligation — (on the hook) — to make pay some of the state tax credits to film makers because. they say, an application for a credit is not a contract for a credit.

But now, a statement from the Iowa Attorney General’s office counters that.

“It is the Attorney General’s responsibility to determine the State’s obligations and liabilities under the Film Tax Credit Program, and we are working on that intensively. The State’s obligations and liabilities may not be determined solely by whether a contract has been signed by the parties, and statements by State officials to that effect are mistaken,” reads the statement from the Attorney General’s office (emphasis added by me). “We understand the difficulties suspension of the program poses for companies doing business in Iowa, and we will weigh that carefully case by case as state officials determine how best to proceed.”

New acting DED director, deputy

Breaking news on the Film Office/DED front; news release below:


Joe O’Hern Appointed Interim Deputy Director at IDED

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver today announced that Fred S. Hubbell has agreed to serve as the interim director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED). Hubbell, of Des Moines, has led global companies as well as civic initiatives in Iowa. Because of previous commitments, he will begin the interim appointment on October 5.

In addition, Governor Culver announced that Joe O’Hern, deputy director at the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA), will serve as interim deputy director at IDED, focusing on IDED’s flood recovery efforts.

“The history of the Hubbell family runs parallel to the history of Iowa, and I am honored that someone with Fred’s experience, integrity and commitment to our state will serve in this key position,” said Governor Culver. “Fred’s leadership will help us ensure that proper oversight is in place for IDED programs. And he will play a vital role in our work to support business and job opportunities to help Iowa work our way out of the economic recession.”

“Economic development in Iowa is a critical engine for growth,” said Interim Director Hubbell. “I look forward to helping both Governor Culver and the department address this issue and focus on what IDED does well, which is creating and retaining jobs.”

[Read more…]

Culver counterpunch on Film Office flap

“Iowans will not be taken for suckers.” — Governor Chet Culver, September 22, 2009.

Governor Chet Culver made a statement today at a news conference in Cedar Rapids which put film industry folks on notice: don’t blame the film office flap for your failure to pay your workers. Culver read his statement during a news conference in Cedar Rapids after he and a top FEMA administrator had toured flood recovery efforts. Culver advised the media throng he had a statement to read, then added to the rest of the crowd: “If people need to move to the next flood related event, they can.” That got a few chuckles, then Culver started reading. Read Culver’s statement below.

CEDAR RAPIDS – Governor Chet Culver made the following statement today about developments at the Iowa Film Office and the Iowa Department of Economic Development during a stop in Cedar Rapids:

“When information was first brought to my attention last week about Iowa’s film tax credit program, I was troubled. But as we began our investigation into this program, and more information has come to light, frankly, I am outraged – not only that a program involving millions of Iowa tax dollars was so mismanaged but that some companies were taking advantage of this situation.

[Read more…]

Film Office manager fired; another DED official resigns

More news in the Film Office scandal: the governor has fired Film Office manager Tom Wheeler. Wheeler had been placed on administrative leave last week by his (former) boss, Mike Tramontina, the (former) director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development. The number two person at the DED is now gone, too. Read the governor’s news release below

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver announced today the departure of two officials from the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED).

The manager of the Iowa Film Office, Thomas Wheeler, has been dismissed from his position effective this afternoon. The Iowa Film Office is a division of IDED. Amy Johnson will serve as the interim manager of the Iowa Film Office.

In addition, the resignation of Vince Lintz as deputy director of IDED has been accepted.

IDED is currently reporting to Richard Oshlo, director of the Department of Management, while new leadership for the department is being considered.

Earlier today, Governor Culver asked the Attorney General, State Auditor and Department of Revenue to assist in a review of the Film, Television and Video Project Promotion Program. On Friday, Governor Culver accepted the resignation of IDED Director Mike Tramontina and asked the Economic Development Board to not approve further film tax credit certificates until questions about the administration of the program are answered.

Democratic legislative leaders on Film Office flap

The top four Democrats in the legislature issued a joint statement this afternoon. Read it below:

Joint Statement from Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, Senate President Jack Kibbie, House Speaker Pat Murphy, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

Regarding Culver-Judge Administration’s response to Film Office controversy

“We are encouraged by the steps taken by the Governor and Lt. Governor to ensure additional accountability and scrutiny with regard to the Iowa Film Office.

“It was prudent for the Governor to announce plans today to involve Attorney General Tom Miller and State Auditor David Vaudt to ensure that every fiscal and legal avenue is pursued against anyone who may have abused this program.

“We are also reassured by their commitment to lift the suspension of the program as soon as it makes sense for responsible projects.”

D.E.D “Fact Sheet” on Film Office

Just as the Iowa Motion Picture Association and others in the film industry are holding a news conference to call to resumption of the state program that extends tax credits to movie makers, a spokesman for the Department of Economic Development emails a “fact sheet” about the program. Read D.E.D. public information officer Erin Seidler’s memo below.

[Read more…]

A “no go” today in Waterloo

As you may know, Iowa Department of Economic Development director Mike Tramontina resigned abruptly late Friday as problems with the Iowa Film Office came to light. Erin Seidler, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Economic Development, sent an advisory Sunday afternoon, saying a news conference in Waterloo scheduled for Monday which was to feature Tramontina will be “rescheduled.” Here’s the Seidler’s Sunday email:

Press Conference on Single Family New Construction Program in Waterloo To Be Rescheduled

WATERLOO, IA (September 20, 2009) – The press conference to be held on Monday, September 21st on the Single Family New Construction Program in Waterloo will be rescheduled. The date of the press conference has yet to be determined.

So what was the event that was cancelled? Read about it below (again, it will be rescheduled and will NOT happen Monday).

Single Family New Construction Program Builds New Houses to Replace Flood-Damaged Homes

WATERLOO, IA (September 17, 2009) – Officials with the City of Waterloo, Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) and Rebuild Iowa Office (RIO) will announce plans to construct new housing at a press conference in the Summerland neighborhood on Monday, September 21. The Single Family New Construction Program was created earlier this year to build affordable replacement housing units to replace those housing units damaged during the flood.

This program will help fund the construction of 22 new housing units, including 20 single family homes and two condominiums, in 2009. Two local builders and developers participated in the program. The combined total for all of these construction projects is $4 million.

WHO: Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley, RIO Executive Director Lt. Gen. Ron Dardis, IDED Director Mike Tramontina, Builders Jason Guthrie and John Rooff, City Councilman At-Large Bob Greenwood

WHAT: Press conference to announce Single Family New Construction Program

WHERE: Summerland Neighborhood,  5538 Summerland Dr., Waterloo, IA

RAIN LOCATION: Council Chambers, Waterloo City Hall, 715 Mulberry Street, Waterloo, IA


Through the Single Family New Construction Program, eligible property owners are offered assistance up to 30% of the purchase price for down payment and closing costs of a new housing unit built for less than $180,000. This program is providing a total subsidy of $1.256 million for the 22 housing units. Construction has already begun on most of these properties.

Qualified applicants must be at or below 100% of Area Median Income by household size established by Housing and Urban Development (HUD). All assisted homebuyers must be able to support a mortgage as evidenced by a firm loan commitment and must maintain the property as their primary residence for five years. Assistance from this program cannot be combined with the Federal Jumpstart Homebuyer Assistance or State Jumpstart Down Payment Assistance programs for the same house or owner.

Houses eligible for this program must be located within the corporate limits of Waterloo and cannot be located in the 100-year floodplain. Properties must be single family dwellings, single family unit condominiums or modular homes on permanent foundations. The housing units must be built by an approved builder and cannot exceed $180,000.

Tramontina memo outlines “irregularities” in Iowa film program

Below is the memo written by (now former) Iowa Department of Economic Director Michael Tramontina on Wednesday. The memo was handed to members of the Iowa Economic Development Board as they left their meeting this week in Des Moines and it was released to Radio Iowa this evening.

September 16, 2009

TO: Jim Larew, IGOV Chief of Staff; Dick Oshlo, Director, Dept of Management; Bob Bocken, Chair of DED Board

FROM: Michael Tramontina, Director Dept of Economic Development

RE: Film Program Status

DED management is investigating several reported irregularities in the handling of the Film program. At the same time we are: Adapting to the explosive growth of the program; responding to Legislators’ and IDRF’s evaluation of the impact of the program on the state budget; amending administrative rules to tighten eligibility to assure maximum impact on in-state workers and film industry; promote a permanent film production industry in fixed locations. This memo will attempt to bring IGOV, IDOM and the board up to date on each of these issues. [Read more…]

DED director abruptly resigns; governor freezes film tax credits

Breaking news, released just before five o’clock on a Friday: Iowa Department of Economic Development director Mike Tramontina has resigned (seems as if he was asked to do so) and the governor has written the head of the Iowa Economic Development Board a letter, freezing the film tax credits available for movie-makers making their movies in Iowa.

Read the release below:


DES MOINES – The Director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, Mike Tramontina, has tendered his resignation, effective immediately, to Governor Chet Culver.

The Governor has accepted Tramontina’s resignation.

The Department of Economic Development will report to Richard Oshlo, the interim director of the Department of Management, while new leadership at IDED is being considered.

NOTE: The following letter was sent from Governor Culver to Robert Boeken, chair of the Iowa Economic Development Board, this afternoon:

September 18, 2009

Mr. Robert Bocken
2904 15th Ave NE
Fort Dodge, IA 50501

Re: Film, Television and Video Promotion Program

Dear Mr. Bocken:

While there have been many reported benefits resulting from the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s implementation of the film, television and video project promotion program established under Iowa Code section 15.393, I am also very troubled by information very recently received by our office that there have been insufficient procedures in place to assure a full and accurate accounting of expenditures made to enable persons to qualify for tax credits under the program.

Therefore, until all reasonable questions about the administration of this program are answered, I ask that no further schedules of qualified expenditures be approved nor any further tax credit certificates be issued.

I am confident that our office, in working with your Board and others asked by us to review these matters, can resolve pending issues efficiently and effectively, allowing us to move forward with this important program in a manner that is both consistent with the intent of this legislation and that protects the interests of Iowa taxpayers.


Chester J. Culver
Governor of Iowa

Harkin, Grassley on the “stimulus”

Immediately below is a news release from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (a Democrat), issued at 12:31 p.m. central on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 — just about the time a group of Democratic-connected groups were holding a news conference in Des Moines urging Senator Grassley (a Republican) to back the stimulus package.  Grasley delivered a speech on the senate floor on this topic.  The speech text is posted in its entirety below. Governor Culver has issued a statement as well, which is at the very bottom of this post:


[Read more…]