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Altered spreadsheet tipped off state auditor of Iowa governor's office misusing federal COVID funds, he says

Auditor Rob Sand released his concerns in a state audit and says he tried to warn Gov. Kim Reynolds multiple times about issues with her office's spending.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand is raising questions over Gov. Kim Reynold's spending of federal COVID-19 relief dollars. According to a state audit from Sand published Monday, Reynold's office used nearly $450,000 of federal funds to pay staff salaries. 

"We told her to maintain documentation and have them be doing work that was directly impacting the pandemic," said Sand. "But she didn't take our advice. And here we are."

Sand said Gov. Reynold's staffing level was approved pre-pandemic. This is why he's confused CARES Act funding was needed to cover the salaries of 21 employees. 

"The governor had a larger amount of people on staff than she had a budget to pay for," said Sand. "And instead of either getting a bigger budget or reducing her personal staff size, she went and she used some of these COVID dollars to pay staff salaries. "

The Democrat said his office made it clear Reynold's staff didn't have the direct impact on the pandemic needed to qualify for these funds, and suggested the money be used on more direct costs like COVID-19 testing. 

"At the end of the day what we saw was a spreadsheet that was altered," said Sand. "Where it said originally, this is the amount of budget shortfall that we have in the governor's office and they simply changed that heading to say this was COVID related."

Local 5 received a statement from Reynolds spokesperson Alex Murphy, who said the United States Department of Treasury confirmed the use of Coronavirus Relief Funds to reimburse the salaries and benefits of a governor's staff is an allowable expense. 

"During this time, the Governor's staff spent a vast majority of their time responding to the pandemic," said Murphy in the statement. "In fact, many members of Gov. Reynolds' staff worked seven days a week out of the State Emergency Operation Center to provide direct support to Iowans. This has always been our justification for the expense."

Murphy adds the office is now working with the Treasury Department to provide them the documentation they've requested. This is something this office told Local 5 News last year when these accusations were first raised

"I don't know why after having been asked twice and twice saying that they did not have any, they're now telling the public, 'Oh, don't worry, we're working on putting together documentation," said Sand. 

WATCH | Auditor Sand on Gov. Reynolds' use of CARES Act funding (Oct. 19, 2020)