DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa lawmakers are again following the money trail. This time, it's taxpayer dollars the state's home for veterans. Seven people testified under oath before the Senate Oversight Committee during the nearly seven hour hearing.
The Iowa Veterans Home is one of the largest state-owned facilities in the country. In 2008, the Legislature set aside $100 million for a four-part construction project. To date, only one phase is complete. State lawmakers want to know what happened with the project and the millions of dollars in federal matching funds that were lost.
"At every turn it seemed like the Governor's office didn't want to hear anything going awry at the Iowa Veterans Home," said Greg Wright, former business manager at the Iowa Veterans Home.
Wright claims that when he voiced his concerns about the construction contracts not following federal guidelines, he was reclassified and relieved of his duties. He also took a $33,000 pay cut.
"It was very threatening environment there," said Wright.
Commandant Jodi Tymeson took over eight months ago. She said a revised construction plan is underway.
"I only want to speak about the project that I have been involved in and the decisions I've made and why," Tymeson told the committee of three Democrats and two Republicans.
Despite the past practices at the home, Tymeson said plans to improve the quality of care for veterans and their spouses are moving ahead.
Des Moines Senator Matt McCoy said Tymeson was in charge when the home decided to change plans and turn down federal matching dollars. The decision was made without lawmakers knowledge.
"Do we have a right to know that you're sending letters back to Washington and turning back money changing the plans laterally?" McCoy asked.
"I understand your concern and I certainly will commit to you that we follow all the correct processes at the Iowa Veterans Home," replied Tymeson.
The Senate Oversight Committee will meet on June 25th to discuss more of the secret settlements and claims of hush money paid to former state employees.