The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Posts Tagged ‘Veterans Memorial Commission’

Vets Commission asks: Why is Linn County back in the May’s Island courthouse and jail while the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall sits empty?

In City Hall, FEMA, Veterans Memorial Commission on May 12, 2009 at 9:24 am

Three government buildings damaged in last June’s flood sit on May’s Island in the middle of the Cedar River.
Why is it that the Linn County Courthouse and the Linn County Jail are now back in business, while the Veterans Memorial Building that houses City Hall remains empty with no plans for now to reoccupy it?

That is the question that Pat Reinert, a member of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission and an assistant federal prosecutor in Cedar Rapids, wanted City Manager Jim Prosser to answer at the commission’s meeting Monday evening.

The answer provided by Prosser was this:

The city isn’t Linn County. The city has more than 10 times as much flood damage to its public buildings and facilities than the county. More damage means longer, more complicated negotiations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over the amount of damages that FEMA will pay to fix the building.

To this, commission member Gary Grant stressed to Prosser that the commission does not care if city government intends to return to the building.

“We think the building has great potential even if the City Council doesn’t come back,” Grant told Prosser.

All the commission wants is to be included in the planning for the building’s future, Grant and Reinert said.

This is one of the central rubs about the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall that only has become exacerbated as the months have passed.

The City Council has never expressed any enthusiasm for returning to the building.

Prosser on Monday evening reminded the commission members that the City Council is embarking on a several-month public participation process to determine the futures of several of the city’s flood-damaged public buildings. Much of the talk over many months now has been about “co-locating” city, county and school functions in the same buildings. The county, which seemingly had the most potential synergies with the city, dropped out of the process a few months ago, and the City Council has used the word co-locate less if at all recently.

Prosser emphasized last night that he and the City Council go into the public participation process without any idea if city government will return to the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall or not.

But as he and several council members repeatedly mention, one important factor will be the life-cycle costs of buildings. This often has seemed a euphemism in favor of building a new, “greener,” more efficient building than the existing City Hall.

Last week, though, council member Tom Podzimek said no one was going into the decision-making over buildings with any preconceived notions. At the same time, council member Kris Gulick said he wanted to make sure that the cost to retrofit existing buildings was factored into any analysis.

Monday evening’s commission meeting was eye-opening because it showed just how great a gulf exists between the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission of volunteer appointees and the paid machinery of city government.

Prosser, Casey Drew, the city’s finance director, and John Levy, a city consultant who is helping direct the city’s plans for its flood-damaged buildings, came armed with much information that, surprisingly, eleven months after the flood, was news to the commission. It was as if the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall, the management of which the commission is responsible for, was a great mystery and Prosser, Drew and Levy were sharing some of the secrets.

Commission members were a bit testy and eager to let Prosser know that it was time to get moving on repairing the building.

In fact, on its own, the commission has been trying to hustle around to establish temporary electrical service to the building just so government –even if FEMA was paying the bill — could stop paying huge bills to run generators.

The city can’t just do nothing and let the building continue to “degrade,” Reinert said at one point.

“Quite frankly, it’s driving me insane,” he said.

The exercise in establishing temporary electrical service at a cost of about $9,000 has proven a bit of a comedy: Prosser and Drew said written bids weren’t used, and Drew explained that two commission-employed maintenance workers had their city-issued purchase cards revoked because they attempted to pay for services before they were provided against city policy. All of this is getting cleaned up.

Commission chairman Pete Welch listed on the commission agenda all the special state grants that the city secured for other local buildings: $5 million for the library; $10 million for a new human services building; $10 million for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library; $5 million for Options of Linn County; $5 million for the Paramount Theatre; $5 million for the Public Works Building; $16 million for the downtown steam issue. And zero for the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall.

Commission member Gary Craig acknowledged that he had seen a city list that had sought $5 million for City Hall, but somewhere along the line that amount failed to make the final list.

Reinert said the building might get more backing if it is called its real name, the Veterans Memorial Building.

The commission noted that $118 million in state IJOBs funds are available for other public projects on a competitive basis. Prosser said the city intended to present plenty of proposals to try to win some of the money.

This is “a really critical city facility,” the city manager said of the Veterans Memorial Building.

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Veterans Commission returns to May’s Island icon; frustrated commissioners learn that repairs to flood-damaged building still months away

In City Hall on May 11, 2009 at 7:27 pm

The Veterans Memorial Commission last night held its first meeting in the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall on May’s Island since the June 2008 flood.

It was a something of a sobering event.

The commission designed the agenda to try to encourage City Manager Jim Prosser to get work on the building started immediately, only to learn that such work must await a back-and-forth negotiation between the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency over just how much damage the flood of almost a year ago did to the building.

Trying to rush ahead with work without following the FEMA process would only jeopardize FEMA payments to the city to make the building repairs, Prosser and John Levy, a consultant whose job it is to help the city get all that it feels it deserves from FEMA, told the commission.

Levy, of Base Tactical Disaster Recovery of Birmingham, Mich., told the commission that the city completed its “worksheet” on its assessments of damages to the building, but FEMA has not yet completed its worksheet. FEMA still has not done so, either, for other flood-damaged city buildings, including the Paramount Theatre, the city-owned Sinclair site, the city’s transit garage and former animal control shelter among other buildings, Levy noted.

Once FEMA submits its worksheet of the building’s scope of damages, Levy said the city and FEMA then sit down and debate “scope realignment” to see if FEMA and the city can agree on a final scope of damages. Then the city must submit plans to protect the building and its contents against future floods.

“It’s the process we’re stuck in, and it’s very frustrating,” said Levy, agreeing with commission members.

Levy said FEMA representatives have visited the building four times to date, and now want to return again to examine the building anew. He said it would be summer before there would be any developments.

Commission member Pat Reinert said the commission was eager to get to work on basic infrastructure of the building, what he called its “spine.” He said the commission wants to move electrical and heating air-conditioning systems to a room above the commission’s office on the building’s first floor. He said the commission even has considered using its own funds to start the process.

All of that will need to wait the FEMA process, Prosser and Levy said.

Even one modest attempt at a commission victory met with problems. The commission decided to spend about $9,000 to establish temporary electricity in the building. Reinert said the electricity will let the commission see how much damage is done to building’s air handlers and to make sure they don’t further degrade. But the commission didn’t follow city policy of written bids, a problem which could cause issues with FEMA later, Levy and Casey Drew, the city’s finance director, told the commission. The commission last night agreed to seek written bids so it can then have electricity in the building.

Prosser told the commission that cities that had experienced disasters told Cedar Rapids how much money they failed to obtain from FEMA because they embarked on work outside the FEMA process expecting to be reimbursed anyway. With the city looking at $500 million in damages to public buildings and facilities alone, the city stands to lose millions by not following procedure, Prosser told the commission.

There has been much tension between the commission and city officials and the City Council over the very basics: the commission thinks it owns the building, and the city thinks the city does. FEMA decided its payments will go to the city. Reinert last night said the commission wants to leave such disputes in the past.

Prosser noted that a public participation process begins next month on the future of city buildings. He said some people assume that city government won’t return to the May’s Island building, but he said no one has decided that.

Commission member Gary Grant said the commission doesn’t care if city government comes back or not. The commission’s concern is that the building is restored.

The lack of communication between commission members and city officials was clear last night when both sides learned that they agree that work needs to begin immediately to make improvements to the building’s celebrated Grant Wood-designed stained-glass window.

Commission members said there weren’t sure if the window had been insured prior to the flood, but Levy said it had been and that the city continues to make its case for a claim to be paid.

Both sides agreed to seek proposals to get the window assessed and fixed as quickly as possible. Both sides said they have wanted to remove the window months ago to begin the renovation of it.

Former vets director Gary Craig will ‘vigorously fight’ public misconduct charge; his attorney says Craig is ‘shocked;’ calls charge a ‘personal vendetta’

In City Hall, Veterans Memorial Commission on March 26, 2009 at 9:28 am

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.

Corbett lambasts ‘culture of delay’; calls for fix of City Hall; labor, vets turn out; Councilman Shey there, too; calls Corbett ‘status quo’

In City Hall, Floods, Ron Corbett on March 19, 2009 at 10:02 am

Mayoral candidate Ron Corbett on Thursday morning stood outside the empty, flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall and called on city government to repair the building and return to it.

In so doing, Corbett said the city would honor the veterans for whom the building stands as a memorial and it would put local workers back to work.

Nearly 100 labor union members and veterans stood to listen to Corbett speak, but surprisingly, no one from the local electronic media was on hand to record the event.

Turns out, the Linn County Board of Supervisors had summoned the media to the flood-damaged federal courthouse just down the street, a building that the supervisors have their eyes on for the possible future location of the county’s juvenile court operation.

In any event, Corbett had props, TV cameras or no TV cameras.

He held up one of the familiar “We’re Back” signs that have gone outside many buildings that were damaged by the June 2008 flood and are now open and back to life. Only Corbett’s sign had a circle with a line through it, signifying that the Veterans Memorial Building is not back on its feet. He then ripped the circle off so the sign said, “We’re Back.”

“This is why we need a new game plan for Cedar Rapids, a game plan that shows leadership and says, “We’re back.”

Just 10 days ago, Corbett –- vice president at trucking firm CRST and former president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and former speak of the Iowa House of Representatives -– attracted every media outlet when he formally kicked off his campaign for mayor.

He spoke without nearly all of them on Thursday.

In his remarks, Corbett took exception with the City Council’s plans for a six-to-nine month study focused on the prospect of building a new government building to house city government and perhaps “co-locate” other jurisdiction’s offices in the new building or at the same site.

“Does the city really want to build a new Taj Mahal dedicated to government?” Corbett asked. “The least expensive plan is to rebuild and move many of the functions of city government back into the Veterans Memorial Building.”

Of course, what most know as City Hall is the Veterans Memorial Building, which was built in the 1920s to honor veterans even as it became home to City Hall.

Corbett said placing City Hall on an island in the middle of the Cedar River made perfect sense in the 1920s and keeping it there makes sense today.

“Many years ago this site was chosen for city government because it was a neutral site between the communities of Cedar Rapids and Kingston,” he said. “That decision brought people together and still does today. This memorial and home to city government has served us well. It is time to reach back to that same unifying spirit.”

Corbett said the current City Hall administration has been given the approval to spend $24 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief money to bring the Veterans Memorial Building back to life. Instead, he said, city leaders have set the matter aside to spend many, many more months exploring the idea of building a new facility somewhere else.

At the end of the day, the city must restore the Veterans Memorial Building in any event, he said, and he said the city should do it out of respect for veterans and to get people in down economy back to work.

“The culture of delay is hurting everyone,” Corbett said. “It is time to get on with our lives.

“We have 7,900 people in this county unemployed. We have laborers in the construction trades that stand ready to work. Unfortunately, we have a City Council stuck in a culture of delay. … We are losing an entire construction season. The delays have to stop.”

Ray Dochterman, business manager of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 125, said his appearance at Corbett’s event on Thursday was not yet an official endorsement of Corbett for mayor. But he said he invited 50 members of his union to come out and listen to Corbett, and 50 members showed up.
Dochterman liked that Corbett was talking about turning federal dollars into jobs.

“You know we’re a little short of jobs right now,” he said.

Scott Smith, president of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building and Construction Trades Council, was on hand Thursday, too, to hear Corbett.

“He’s got some good ideas, and I think he’s looking to take charge and get work going here that needs to be done,” Smith said. “It’s been nine months since the flood, and there’s not a whole lot of progress.”

George Hammond, a long-time member of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, said veterans just want the city to use the federal money to bring the building back to life whether city government returns to it or not.

“All we want is the building back,” Hammond said.

Standing on the edge of the crowd was City Council member Pat Shey.

Later, after the Corbett speech, Shey said he was “disappointed” with Corbett what Corbett had to say. He called it advocacy for the “status quo.”

Shey said the council is still negotiating with FEMA over the amount of damage to the building even as the city begins a public participation process to help figure out what is the best future use for City Hall.

“I cannot recall any discussion about building a Taj Mahal,” Shey said. In fact, he said no one has advocated building a “new” structure for city hall.

FEMA picks City Hall over Vet’s Commission in dust-up over flood-damaged Veterans Memorial Building

In City Hall, FEMA, Jim Prosser on March 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Maybe the city of Cedar Rapids, not the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, owns City Hall after all.

At least the city, not the commission, has been found to be the “eligible recipient” of $20-million-plus in federal disaster relief for the building, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has concluded.

Just who owns the building has been a matter of some murkiness over the years because the building is named the Veterans Memorial Building, which City Hall occupies. The 1920s-era structure on May’s Island in the Cedar River also is managed by the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, and so commission members have been known to make a claim to the place.

The issue began to matter in recent months as FEMA prepared to make a decision on who should be the recipient of federal and state funds to repair the flood-damaged building.

City Manager Jim Prosser has said all along that the city would be the recipient. But Pete Welch, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Commission, wasn’t so sure.

In fact, Welch, who was a bit miffed because he says the city left the commission out of much of the planning about the future of the building, filed documents with FEMA seeking to be the rightful recipient of FEMA repair funds. If nothing else, Welch says, the Veterans Commission needed to protect the city in case FEMA determined that the commission and not the city owned the building. Welch worried that FEMA might not pay anything if the commission wasn’t here to protect the building’s interests.

FEMA’s Wally Armstead on Tuesday put it short and sweet: Any FEMA check is going to the city government, not the commission.

Armstead said that “eligible applicants” are limited to only a few categories of recipients, including local governments, states and certain nonprofit groups. The commission was none of those and, in fact, is “an element of the city” in the city’s table of organization, he said.

Armstead said the money for the May’s Island building’s repair is at the ready with the state of Iowa. The city will draw down the FEMA award -– FEMA pays 90 percent, the state of Iowa, 10 percent -– as it makes repairs to the building.

Just what the city’s intends to do with the building remains up in the air as of now.

Prosser said the city must use the FEMA award to fix the building because of the historic stature of it.

Nonetheless, the City Council has embarked on a six-to-nine-month public-input process to see if the city should build a new city hall at a new location. In that event, the current building would have a new use, the city has said.

At last night’s council budget meeting, Prosser spent some time lamenting how much the city will face in annual insurance costs on the May’s Island building and the flood-damaged library and Paramount Theatre.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Veterans Commission’s Welch said the commission decided this week to defer to FEMA and “let” the city be the eligible recipient of the FEMA and state funds.

The commission, “rather than bickering,” wants to move forward and get the May’s Island building renovated, Welch said.

Even if, he added, the issue of who owns the building is still a matter of debate.

One argument for “co-location” in new public buildings: ‘Getting people to the right parking lot’

In City Hall, Floods, Jim Prosser on February 10, 2009 at 9:26 am

One of the big questions that local taxpayers will face later this year is this one: Do you want to build brand-new public buildings to replace flood-damaged ones or not?

City Hall, along with Linn County and the Cedar Rapids school district, is preparing a six-month-or-so public participation process to take public input on what to build or not to build.

All three central administrative buildings were hit by the flood: City Hall on May’s Island; the county’s Administrative Office Building, across from the Penford Products plant on First Street SW; and the school district’s Educational Service Center on Second Avenue SW.

Camp Dresser & McKee, a consultant for the city, detailed last week what a new Community Services Center might include. SEE http://gazetteonline.com/Assets/images/commservicescenter.jpg

Such a center might be a single building or a campus of buildings with space to house the functions that had been in the three flood-damaged administrative buildings.

A second city consultant, Sasaki Associates Inc., last week said that one place such a Community Services Center might go is on the west side of the river somewhere between the river and Interstate 380.

Proponents of such a center note that it would be more sensible for the public to find and a more efficient place for the government entities to deliver services.

One frequent example often cited is that people no longer would show up at City Hall and be told to go to the Public Works Building to get a building permit. Or they wouldn’t show up at the county building to see the assessor and be told that the county assessor is there but the city assessor is in the city’s office over at Public Works.

The idea behind the Community Services Center is “to get everyone to the right parking lot.”

Such a “co-location” of services also could have common spaces shared by the three entities: a lunch room, for instance, or even a public meeting space that the City Council, Board of Supervisors and school board all could use.

Another proposed new building is called the Community Operations Center. SEE http://gazetteonline.com/Assets/images/commopscenter.jpg

This would be a facility in which the public didn’t need to use much. It would house the city’s streets, sewer and garbage operations and also could house the fleet maintenance operations of city, county and school district.

One idea is that it would be located at the city’s existing Public Works Building, 1201 Sixth St. SW.

A third new public building –- a Community Safety Training Center — might be located at Kirkwood Community College. That’s at least one idea, Police Chief Greg Graham has said.

It would have classrooms, a fire tower for firefighter training, indoor and outdoor firing ranges and driving courses. SEE http://gazetteonline.com/Assets/images/commtrainingcenter.jpg

A joint safety training center also could include a joint communications dispatch center, an idea which holds out the prospect that one day the city and county might actually combine their dispatch services.

One skeptic of the public participation process has been Pete Welch, chairman of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission. The commission operates the city’s Veterans Memorial Building that houses City Hall.

A new Community Services Center would mean that city government would not return to City Hall, and Welch has been displeased because he says that he and the commission have not been involved in much of the discussion to date. At one point, Welch said city leaders write a script, know the ending and then conduct a public participation process to get there.

City Manager Jim Prosser dismisses such a notion.

“When you are making these big decisions on these facilities, you need to get public feedback,” Prosser told The Gazette editorial board last week. “So we’ll have a public participation process.

“I know people struggle with this idea, but when you do that, you really have to start that process with the idea that you just have to trust the process and not know what the outcome is or not have a favorite son in that outcome. You just have to let it go. Whether there will be co-location or not, I don’t know. You just got to let it go. And if it makes sense, it will show. And if it doesn’t, it will show that, too.”

Once again, who owns City Hall anyway?

In City Hall, Floods on January 23, 2009 at 1:12 pm

It happened again at last night’s City Council budget session: The City Council and Pete Welch, chairman of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, were discussing who owns the Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island that houses City Hall.

City Manager Jim Prosser has said, unequivocally, that the city government owns the building. However, Welch has said, and said again last night, that the question had an uncertain answer.

At one point, council member Monica Vernon suggested to Welch that the citizens of Cedar Rapids own the building.

In response, Welch allowed that the city surely owns the ground upon which the building sits, but he said the entire building was built as a memorial to veterans. It’s a memorial, he emphasized.

The issue of land and the air above comes into play at the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel downtown: the city owns the land, the hotel owns the building.

The seven-story Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall has been there since the 1920s.

The city’s City Council-appointed veterans commission operates the building and hires a director and a maintenance staff. The operation is financed with a portion of the city’s annual property-tax levy designated specifically for the veterans memorial.

In recent months, City Manager Prosser has emphasized that city government is only a tenant of the building, and Welch has made it clear that city government has been a “rent-free” tenant at that.

There is a sense that the City Council does not intend to return city government to the building — which was significantly damaged in the June flood and still sits empty – with the presence it had had prior to the flood.

The council, the Linn County Board of Supervisors and the Cedar Rapids school district all have spent some time, largely behind the scenes, talking about the prospect of locating together in one spot, likely in a new building. The entities call it “co-location.”

The Veterans Commission’s Welch has been displeased that he has been kept largely out of the discussion about the future of the building that his commission operates.

At this point, both city staff and the Veterans Commission have filed paperwork with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to position themselves to receive FEMA reimbursement for the flood damage to the building.

FEMA will sort out to whom the reimbursement should go, Welch said last night.

This prompted council member Justin Shields to question whether the city needed FEMA to tell it who owned the building.

In his budget presentation, Welch and the commission are preparing for a new day at the city building on May’s Island whatever the future should bring.

Welch imagined the building could be used as arts center and a spot where nonprofit agencies and others could locate offices. He said he’s gotten calls from lawyers inquiring about the prospect of putting law offices in the building. The Linn County Courthouse is just across the May’s Island lawn from the Veterans Memorial Building, he noted.

As Welch approached a the council’s table to begin his budget presentation on Thursday evening, he jokingly asked if the seat he was about to sit in was wired for punishment.

Veterans commission chair disappointed with former director Gary Craig; attorney for Craig says state audit defames him

In City Hall on January 22, 2009 at 10:34 am

CEDAR RAPIDS — A State Auditor’s Office investigation concludes that the city’s former Veterans Memorial director, Gary Craig, spent improperly and was paid improperly while a city employee. 

 

Auditor David Vaudt’s report, released Thursday, ties Craig to $10,178 in improper spending and the report says Craig received $5,021 in income and payroll taxes as a city employee during hours he was working on veterans project unrelated to city employment. 

 

The state report goes on to say that it could not determine if there were additional improper financial issues because of the absence of adequate records. 

 

The report notes, too, that Craig repaid $6,800 in questioned spending back in August 2007 when concerns surfaced from the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, to whom Craig answered, and at Valor Inc., a nonprofit organization serving veterans. Craig was Valor Inc.’s treasurer. 

 

Pete Welch, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Commission, said Thursday that the conclusions of the state auditor left him disappointed in Craig. 

 

“I’m disappointed as a I would be in any person put in a position of trust and the trust ends up misused,” Welch said. “I’m disappointed that someone wasn’t able to act in a completely above board and proper manner.”

 

Robert Wilson of Cedar Rapids, Craig’s attorney, on Thursday said the auditor’s report was in error.

 

Wilson noted that Craig was attempting to wear a couple hats at once with the city and Valor Inc. with the burden of the tasks pretty much left to him.

 

“He was all by himself trying to keep track of everything,” Wilson said.

 

He said Craig received too little compensation, not an improper extra amount.

 

“The state auditor apparently didn’t bother to take into consideration comp time,” Wilson said. “Gary had many hours of comp time. He volunteered many hours, and he never requested pay for it, and they didn’t consider that at all.”

 

Wilson said he doesn’t think the auditor’s report suggests Craig did anything criminally wrong, but even so, he said, “Gary does like to be defamed either by these accusations.”

 

Craig, who drives truck now, was on the road, his attorney said.

 

A member of the city’s veterans commission contacted the state auditor’s office in September 2007 asking for a probe into Craig’s handling of finances, and on Oct. 2, the commission put Craig on administrative leave. He remained on paid leave until he resigned March 1, 2008.

 

Craig was 53 and earning $62,067 a year when he left city employment.

 

“I resigned, retired, quit,” he said at the time. “I don’t know anything about it (the audit). Period. … I have done nothing wrong.”

 

Craig acknowledged then he had attended truck-driving school at Kirkwood Community College during his leave from his city job so he could learn how to drive semi-trailer trucks.

 

“My doctor felt it would be good for me,” Craig said then.

 

He said the thought was that it would help relieve the stress that had contributed to his being off work.

 

“I have a new career now,” continued Craig, who said he was driving a truck across the nation. “It’s a lot less stress.”

The state auditor’s report notes that the local veterans commission wanted state investigators to see if Craig had billed the city commission for work for the same hours he was working for Valor Inc., an entity created to renovate mobile homes for low-income and homeless veterans.

 

The report  http://auditor.iowa.gov/specials/specials.htm  said state auditors found 162 hours over 90 days from Jan. 1, 2006 through Sept. 10, 2006, in which Craig’s time records showed he worked for Valor when he was supposed to be working on his city job.

The report recommends that the Veterans Memorial Commission and Valor Inc. strengthen their internal controls.

The state investigation included a review of a long list of documents including Craig’s personal checking account, which was also used as the Valor Inc. account.

According to the report:

One of the investigation’s focuses was on a checking account of Stand Down, an annual Cedar Rapids event that provides clothing, food and other support for homeless veterans. Craig had primary responsibility for this account.

Among funds in the account were funds from veterans groups and money from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The report points to minutes of an Aug. 27, 2007 meeting of a Stand Down/Valor Inc. financial meeting at which the report states that Craig admitted cash withdrawals had not been used for Stand Down expenses.

Additionally, the report notes that Craig deposited $6,800 into the Stand Down account in August 2007, which the report said “appears to be the return of money” Craig had admitted withdrawing at the Aug. 27, 2007 meeting.

As for Valor Inc., according to the state report:

Valor Inc. was incorporated in March 2006 as a nonprofit organization. Craig was its treasurer, and as such, he was instructed to open a separate bank account for it. He didn’t. Instead, he used his own personal checking account, the report states.

The result was that Valor receipts and payouts were commingled with Craig’s own personal finances.

By August 2007, the Valor Inc. board of directors had become concerned about the handling of finances, and asked Craig to make an accounting. The board then retained an attorney to review Craig’s documentation, which the attorney found insufficient to reach any conclusions.

Some of Valor Inc.’s funds were used to renovate mobile homes. Once complete, veterans would be placed in the homes with rent and utilities paid by the Valor Inc. account.

With the Valor Inc. account, Craig was paying rent and utilities for two individuals residing at the Hillside Mobile Home Park, though one board member said all Valor Inc. properties were in the Five Seasons park.

“Upon further review, it was determined that the Hillside Mobile Home Park address was that of Mr. Craig’s stepson,” the report said. The report calls that spending “personal.”