Gary Craig, the city of Cedar Rapids’ former veterans memorial director, was arrested Wednesday afternoon and taken to jail on a charge of felonious misconduct in office. If convicted, the 54-year-old could face up to five years in prison and a $7,500 fine. He quickly posted a $5,000 bond and was released.
Craig is accused of providing the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission with false payroll records, spreadsheets and claim forms during a time when the commission raised questions about his job performance, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
His attorney, Michael Lahammer of Cedar Rapids, said Thursday afternoon that Craig is innocent.
Lahammer said he and Craig will “vigorously fight’ the charge.
“We think it’s a personal vendetta by some people, and it’s certainly not based on any facts as we understand them to be,” Lahammer said. “Gary’s given a lot of public service to the city and county, he’s a veteran, and he’s pretty shocked at the charge.”
Craig’s initial court appearance is slated for April 3 in Linn County District Court. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.
Also on Thursday, Pete Welch, chairman of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, renewed his disappointment with Craig, the former commission’s paid city employee.
Craig resigned from his city post on March 1, 2008, citing job stress, after being paid for 20 weeks while on city paid administrative and medical leave. He joined the city payroll in August 1998.
He was placed on leave by the Veterans Memorial Commission when the commission asked the state auditor to investigate Craig’s handling of money.
The auditor’s report, released in January 2009, found fault with Craig, fault which was apparently the basis for his arrest on Wednesday.
“It is disappointing that when you put a person in a position of public trust that they don’t handle themselves in an absolutely trustworthy manner,” Welch said Thursday.
The auditor’s report in January accused Craig of spending improperly and being paid improperly while a city employee.
Specifically, the state report tied Craig to $10,178 in improper spending and the report said he received $5,021 in city income and payroll taxes while working on veterans projects unrelated to city employment.
The report noted, too, that Craig repaid $6,800 of the $10,178 in questioned spending.
Craig has been driving truck over the road since his departure from the city.
Back in January, Craig said he left city employment and took to driving a truck to relieve stress.
“My doctor felt it would be good for me,” he said. As for the state audit, “I don’t know anything about it. I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Craig’s attorney in January, Robert Wilson of Cedar Rapids, also said Craig did nothing wrong.
Accusations against him, Wilson said, were a result of Craig’s wearing a couple hats at once. He was both the city’s veterans director and treasurer of Valor Inc., a non-profit organization serving veterans.
“He was all by himself trying to keep track of everything,” Wilson said in January.
Craig was earning $62,067 a year when he left city employment.