By David Hotle
RIVERSIDE – City administrator Rusty Rogerson said that he was obeying the law when he requested the Iowa State Auditor’s Office perform a special investigative examination of the city’s payroll late last year.
Rogerson said today that since he requested the investigation, he feels that several members of the city council have been “harassing” him. Rogerson said he has been accused of shredding documents that could have proved the employees’ innocence.
He said that if he hadn’t called for the investigation he could have faced charges. He also said that so far 6,000 pages have been submitted to the investigation, with the auditor’s office contacting Riverside almost daily to request more documents.
“Any elected official or government employee who discovered something in the financial realm that doesn’t appear right, it is the responsibility of that person to contact the state auditor’s office,” he said. “Clearly what this position is to do is to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money. The minute you think there is anything not appropriate or just questionable, you are legally required to report it. It doesn’t take a vote of the council to report it.”
In discussions with the auditor’s office this morning, Rogerson said the investigation is continuing. He said officials have already been to the city twice. He said the auditor’s office doesn’t give a status report on the investigation. He expects auditors to return to Riverside to interview relevant people. He said the auditor’s office could subpoena people who decline to be interviewed.
Rogerson said that as he worked to balance the books upon first taking office, he discovered several things he considered “irregularities” in the payroll. He said there were pay increases not authorized by the city council and a flex benefit plan that was inappropriately managed. Other concerns include the lack of follow-up on council decisions. The auditors are looking at all Hart-Frederick invoices, copies of resolutions that appeared to have multiple versions and ones with handwritten information added. They are also looking at vehicle expenses for former city administrators Tina Thomas and Missy Carter.
“I’ve been through 30-plus state audits, and they always talk to city staff,” Rogerson said.
He said that he had worked with the Iowa Department of Corrections and the Iowa Department of Human Services for 33 years, and the departments are audited each year. He said that he has been around government budgets for a long time. He also said his assistant has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is about to take a certified public accountant exam.
“Some stuff just jumps out at you,” he said.
During the last regular meeting he said that, since he notified the auditor’s office, he feels several council members are upset with him. He declined to say which ones. Rogerson said that it was their behavior toward him and their voting record that leads him to believe they are upset. He also said two had told him they are personal friends of the former employees.
“In corrections and mental health, I did harassment and bullying training,” he said. “I have a pretty good understanding of what it is.”
The councilors, he said, seem to want the situation to be resolved to show that he had “set this all up.”
“I would gain nothing by setting up former employees,” he said. “I don’t know them or work with them. I won’t get a raise. It will be front-page news; I don’t gain anything from that. Accusations that I set people up or that I have shredded documents is just … it is not a good working relationship.”
Rogerson said that he is unconcerned if city council members attempt to remove him from the position of city administrator. As a former corrections official, Rogerson said that he is fully retired from the state and receives his state benefits. He said that he is not a “quitter.”
“I thought I could give back to the community and provide some leadership and experience and knowledge,” he said. “I’m different than other people they have hired. I don’t count on my salary to make my house payment. I’m fully retired.”