Capital Clicks

Judge: Fired Polk County official didn’t report wages from second job

By: - August 4, 2021 5:11 pm

The Polk County administrative building in Des Moines. (Photo by Polk County)

When Polk County’s fired human resources director filed for unemployment benefits earlier this year, he reportedly failed to report wages he was collecting from a second, part-time job.

According to Iowa Workforce Development records, James Nahas began working for Dowling College (a business name for Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines) in late 2010, and served as the seasonal assistant basketball coach from mid-November 2020 through March of this year. For that work, he was paid $4,832.

For part of that period, Nahas also worked for Polk County as its full-time human resources director, earning roughly $160,000 per year. On Jan. 5, Nahas was fired by the county, which alleged he had been less than candid with investigators who were looking into allegations of sexual harassment aimed at Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy. Nahas subsequently filed for unemployment benefits.

Although IWD has yet to issue a final decision as to Nahas’ eligibility for benefits based on his firing from Polk County, Nahas’ unemployment claim has generated a weekly benefit of $605.

In early May, Nahas resumed working for Dowling as the school’s sophomore baseball coach for the 2021 season, collecting $4,477 in pay. That job ended on July 12.

IWD now says Nahas did not report his wages from Dowling when he filed his weekly, continuing claims for unemployment benefits.

Administrative Law Judge Daniel Zeno recently ruled that Nahas is considered only “partially unemployed” since his firing from Polk County, which means there’s now a question as to whether his failure to report wages earned from Dowling has resulted in the overpayment of jobless benefits.

In his ruling, Zeno remanded that issue to IWD’s Benefits Integrity Bureau for an investigation and a decision. Even if Nahas is found to have been overpaid, the dollar amounts involved are likely to be very small.

Nahas’ attorney, Nicholas Mauro, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.