A close friend hired by Linn County Auditor Joel Miller did “virtually nothing” for the $37,342 the county paid for his work, according to an internal investigation. Miller called the probe politically motivated, part of his ongoing dispute with county supervisors over the auditor’s role.
Supervisors voted 4-0 Monday to forward county Finance Director Steve Tucker’s report to the county attorney’s office. Supevisor John Harris, R-Palo, was absent.
Tucker, also the county’s compliance officer, conducted “a very thorough, fair investigation,” Supervisor Ben Rogers, D-Cedar Rapids, said after hearing his report. Miller is also a Democrat.
Miller called Tucker’s report an attempt “to knit together disparate facts and out of context statements for the purpose of drawing a conclusion to support his sought-after outcome.”
“The whole thing looks like a sham and a witch hunt,” Miller said.
County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said he hadn’t seen the report, released seven weeks before county residents vote on Miller’s bid for a second full term. Vander Sanden couldn’t say whether he’d finish his review before Election Day. Miller is challenged by Republican Garth Fagerbakke, the county’s construction services manager.
“While I fully intend to expedite a review of the matter, I can’t commit to a particular timetable for a decision,” Vander Sanden said. “All I can commit to is giving the matter an objective and comprehensive review.”
The investigation “could not conclude whether there was fraudulent misconduct by Mr. (Joe) Clarahan,” Tucker wrote in his summary, delivered to county supervisors at their work session. But he added “virtually nothing was accomplished by Mr. Clarahan on this project. The lack of performance could and should have been avoided with a proper retention process and adequate supervision of Mr. Clarahan.”
Tucker’s report includes eight conclusions:
Tucker began investigating Clarahan’s performance after two county employees claimed he submitted fraudulent time cards while working as an independent contractor in the Auditor’s Office.
Miller on Monday said one of the employees now works in the Treasurer’s Office and both were disgruntled and support Fagerbakke.
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board shows one of the employees identifed by Miller contributed $500 to Fagerbakke’s campaign.
Tucker’s report refers to the two employees, but doesn’t identify them as the source of the original allegations.
Miller said the allegations by the two and Tucker’s investigation were politicall motivated by the employees, Tucker and the Board of Supervisors.
Miller filed suit against the supervisors in February 2010 over their failure to authorize a deputy auditor’s promotion to review independent accounts maintained by county department heads. The supervisors filed a countersuit, and both were combined into a single case heard in late May.
A judge has yet to rule on competing claims by Miller and county supervisors over his legal authority.
Miller said Tucker and the supervisors were “enraged” by his request last year for an audit of county accounting practices by the state auditor. The state auditor found no improper practices but recommended changes to the way some county accounts are managed.
Miller hired Clarahan, who he described this spring as a close friend, last September to implement iMaint, a software for managing facilities maintenance. The software still isn’t fully operational and probably won’t be for at least two years, Tucker told supervisors.
Working through temporary agency Kelly Services, Clarahan billed the county for 119 days of work through March 16, but logs maintained by the software showed activity on only 30 days, Tucker’s report said. The contract between Miller and Kelly Services set an hourly rate at $39.11.
Clarahan, of Cedar Rapids, refused to be interviewed by Tucker. He hasn’t returned calls seeking comment. Clarahan was the Republican candidate for county treasurer in 2010.
Citing county Human Resources Director Lisa Powell, Tucker wrote Miller should have issued a request for proposals seeking bids for the software work.
Miller also should have issued an RFP before the June 30, 2010, purchase of the iMaint package, according to the report.
In May, Miller at first refused to hand over the county-owned laptop computer used by Clarahan, relenting after copying the contents of its hard drive.