Iowa Gov. Reynolds signs bill limiting state auditor’s authority

(ABC 6 News) – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Thursday that will restrict the state auditor’s ability to conduct audits. 

The bill, Senate File 478, which passed through both the Iowa House and Senate in late April, will change how the State Auditor’s Office is able to get documents for an investigation if a state agency denies access including details related to the following:

  • Iowan’s income tax returns
  • Criminal files from police
  • Personal information of students
  • Hospital or medical records
  • Peace officers’ investigative reports

Previously, if a department denies the auditor’s request for documents then a judge can intervene in the dispute. This bill will now allow a three-person board with two members from the agencies involved in the dispute and one appointed by the Governor’s Office.

State Auditor Rob Sand, who is the only elected Democrat politician in statewide office, repeatedly denounced the bill as it moved through the legislature. 

After the bill’s signing, Sand reiterated his stance in a press release, calling the bill “the worst pro-corruption bill in Iowa history”. Sand says the bill would block his office from investigating government waste, fraud, and the abuse of taxpayer money.

“It will allow insiders to play fast and loose with Iowans’ tax dollars because those very same people will be able to deny the Auditor’s Office access to the records necessary to expose them. As Assistant Attorney General, I prosecuted criminal cases for seven years. This is akin to letting the defendant decide what evidence the judge and jury are allowed to see.”

Rob Sand, Iowa Auditor of State

In a statement in March, John Geragosian, president of the National State Auditors Association, expressed his organization’s concerns about the bill by saying:

“This bill will negatively impact Auditor Sand’s ability to independently and sufficiently perform his audit work. State auditors should have unfettered access to confidential records to ensure that state agencies are following their policies and procedures and state and federal law. This is also necessary to ensure that we prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of state programs and funds. State auditors also have the immense responsibility to guard against disclosure of any confidential information. It is a responsibility we take seriously.”  

John Geragosian, President of National State Auditors Association

Despite these concerns, Iowa Republicans like State Sen. Mike Bousselot claimed the bill is designed to protect Iowans’ personal information. 

“You see, the watchdog still has teeth. It’s just making sure that those teeth aren’t getting sank in to something they shouldn’t be in, which is Iowans’ most personal and private information.”

Sen. Mike Bousselot (R-IA)

The law will take effect on July 1.