Sioux City Smackdown Intensifies - Updated

Todd Dorman
Published: September 1 2009 | 7:56 am - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 8:41 am in
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Republican candidate for governor Christopher Rants, a state rep. from Sioux City, delivered another broadside this morning to fellow GOP hopeful and Siouxlander Bob Vander Plaats.

This time, Rants smacked Vander Plaats self-touted record as a "turnaround CEO," arguing that his tenure at the helm of the non-profit Opportunities Unlimited in Sioux City was less than stellar. Rants says, in reality, the firm "tanked" during BVP's time in charge.

I wasn't surprised when I saw Rants' news release. There were rumblings and rumors among Republicans about Vander Plaats' CEO track record during his last gubernatorial run in 2005-2006, But when he became Jim Nussle's running mate, the talk stopped. The GOP was one big happy family.

This is the second time in a couple of weeks that Rants has taken a swipe at Vander Plaats, who is considered the GOP front-runner until Terry Branstad busts into the race, if he ever does. Last week, Rants assailed Vander Plaats' suggestion that the state slice ties with federal health programs and use the dollars to create a state program.

Here's Rants' release:

Rants: Iowa Doesnt Need a CEO

Who Specializes in Down Turns

SIOUX CITY, IA Bob Vander Plaats claims Iowa needs a turn around CEO, but taking an operating surplus and turning it into a deficit is something our current Governor has already perfected. State government doesnt need a CEO who specializes in down turns, said Rep. Chris Rants, candidate for Governor from Sioux City.

In every speech he gives, Bob says he was a turn around CEO at Opportunities Unlimited, and most people take his word for it. But when he told the crowd at the Black Hawk Lincoln Dinner that he grew the assets of the organization by 440%, it made me wonder just how much truth there was to the story, so I checked it out, explained Rants. A review of the tax returns found on Guidestar uncovered something very different. The facts show Opportunities Unlimited tanked financially during his tenure as CEO and Chairman.

According to a review of Opportunities Unlimited tax returns, during Vander Platts tenure as CEO starting in 97 to when he was dismissed as Chairman in 03, the organization went from a $471,455 operating surplus to a $630,655 deficit, and total operating revenue dropped from $4.2 million to $3.9 million. Public support for the charity dropped from $550,211 to $27,672. End of year net assets were largely unchanged, but long term debt doubled from $2.4 million to $4.7 million.

Once again, what Mr. Vander Plaats says might sound good in a stump speech, but the facts tell a very different story. Budget deficits and more debt show his record is just like Chet Culvers.

UPDATE -- Vander Plaats' campaign says Rants' latest charge is wrong. From campaign spokesman Eric Woolson:

Bob Vander Plaats did not serve as CEO of Opportunities Unlimited from 1997 to 2003 as Christopher Rants states. Vander Plaats’ tenure was from February 1996 to December 31, 2000. That fact alone will affect the numbers that Mr. Rants provided to you and, therefore, anything you publish based on that release is wholly incorrect.

Woolson says a more detailed response will be coming soon.

UPDATE II -- The Vander Plaats campaign's full response:

RESPONSE TO RANTS STATEMENT

DES MOINES – Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher Rants released inaccurate information about GOP frontrunner Bob Vander Plaats’ tenure as President and CEO of Opportunities Unlimited, a long-term care facility for individuals with brain injuries.

Rants based his false attack on Vander Plaats’ success as a turnaround chief executive officer on the contention that Vander Plaats was president and CEO from 1997 to 2003. Vander Plaats held those positions from Feb. 1, 1996 to Dec. 31, 2000. The different time line than that claimed by Rants means his statements about Opportunity Unlimited’s financial status under Vander Plaats’ leadership are completely incorrect.

On Jan. 1, 2001 when Vander Plaats sought the 2002 Republican gubernatorial nomination, he assumed the role of chairman at Opportunities Unlimited and devoted his time on behalf of Opportunities Unlimited to public relations, development and new initiatives. A new president and CEO assumed day-to-day operational responsibilities for Opportunities Unlimited from Jan. 1, 2001 forward. Vander Plaats held the chairman position until June 2002. From July 2002 to February 2003, Vander Plaats serving in a strategic vision role for that organization, Quality Living, Inc. in Omaha and Village Northwest in Sheldon.

Dr. Kim Hoogeveen, who was Chairman of Opportunities Unlimited at the time Vander Plaats was hired and continues to hold the position, has issued this statement:

“When Bob Vander Plaats was recruited to lead Opportunities Unlimited in 1996, the organization was in grim financial condition, clinical operations were inadequate, and the organization had serious image problems. Those combined issues threatened OU’s very existence. After four-and-a-half years with Bob as president and CEO, Opportunities Unlimited went from 54 pages of cited deficiencies to being deficiency free and its financial condition was substantially improved. Under Bob’s leadership OU designed and constructed a dynamic new programming facility, achieved accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and started a wonderful and much-needed program serving children with special needs.

It is unfortunate that such negative statements would be issued based on inaccuracies. Mr. Rants did not even bother to contact any of us who were actually working to save an important nonprofit organization that has now successfully served so many families in need over the past fifteen years. It is sad that Bob’s success as a CEO at Opportunities Unlimited would be questioned by someone who did none of that hard work.”

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