Capital Clicks

Is feeding firefighters a ‘public benefit’?

By: - March 9, 2020 10:51 am

State Auditor Rob Sand’s office has taken exception to the city of Griswold springing for beef patties or pizza at a firefighters’ training session and two meetings.

The total cost: $210.

State auditors wrote that the Iowa Constitution and a 1979 attorney general’s opinion cast doubt on the city’s decision to provide the food without showing a public purpose.

“According to the opinion, it is possible for such disbursements to meet the test of serving a public purpose under certain circumstances, although such items will certainly be subject to a deserved close scrutiny,” state auditors wrote. “The line to be drawn between a proper and an improper purpose is very thin.”

The audit covered the budget year that ended June 30, 2019.

“The City Council should determine and document the public purpose served by these types of disbursements before authorizing any further payments,” auditors said in the report released today. “If this practice is continued, the City should establish written policies and procedures, including the requirements for proper public purpose documentation. Disbursements should not be approved if public purpose is not served.”

Auditors also suggested the city consider a specific agreement with the nonprofits ensuring oversight of the Griswold Youth Sports Complex and the Friends of the Public Library. The city gave the youth complex $11,294 and $179 to the Friends of the Library.

State law prohibits cities from giving money to nonprofits without a formal agreement governing the operations. The auditors told the city to recover the money, and any investment proceeds.

Mayor Brad Rhine said the city would have a response by the end of the week.

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