DES MOINES, Iowa — In an Iowa Finance Authority meeting on Feb. 6, interim Director Debi Durham said no taxpayer money would be used to pay back the state’s general fund for the $4.1 million used to settle sexual harassment claims against the IFA’s former director Dave Jamison. Now, she is clarifying those remarks.
Durham sat down with lawmakers in a joint meeting on Thursday. She explained that while the fund used for the payout doesn’t contain general fund money, it does impact the IFA’s ability to work on future projects.
Rep. Skyler Wheeler attended the meeting and said while he recognizes the need to pay the two women who made claims against Jamison, it is tough to see that money come out of a fund that could help Iowans with affordable housing, one of the IFA’s main functions.
Ashley Cruz says the affordable housing she lives in has made a big impact on her life.
“If there was nothing like this, I believe I’d have to work another job to be able to afford rent. Like I said, the cost of living, daycare prices, the cost is crazy and it’s hard to afford a place,” said Cruz.
The complex she lives in is adding another building, this time, she says, specifically for seniors. The building is being constructed with tax credits issued by the IFA. Those credits come from the same fund that is being used to reimburse the state. State Auditor Rob Sand says he is glad Durham made the clarification.
“My original concern was that she had the words in her first statement ‘not taxpayer money.’ That’s simply not true. The fact she was willing to clarify that says to me, alright, we’re all set and everyone’s on the same page about what’s going on,” said Sand.
Sand says he wants it to be crystal clear that the money being spent to pay the settlement is money that could have been used for taxpayer benefit.
“Whether or not it’s general fund money, it’s still taxpayer assets, and taxpayer assets ultimately belong to the taxpayer. Whether or not they’re being used right now is a different issue. Fundamentally what it comes down to is a little over four million dollars that could have been either given back to taxpayers or done something productive for taxpayers. Instead, we’re paying a sexual harassment settlement with it,” said Sand.
In 2018, the IFA provided a little over $7 million in tax credits to developers across the state to build affordable housing. About $2 million of that was split between three different projects being built in Polk County.