Mauro Defends Polk County Board’s Approval of Grants, Says Nothing Was Wrong With Money Going to Religious Schools

POLK COUNTY, Iowa  --  "I have no problem giving money to schools and giving money for technology and security," said District 5 Polk County Supervisor John Mauro.

Mauro says he does not regret bringing the grant requests to the Polk County Board of Supervisors and recommending their approval, and he says he'd do it again.

"If they came back and asked and the board thought it was a good idea, and they're asking for it," said Mauro. "Now remember, it can't be for religion here. It can't be for them teaching religion, but if they're talking about security and they're talking about things to educate people and it's a good idea and if the law says it's okay, which it's okay, then why wouldn't I?"

The county paid the money, which came from gambling revenue generated by Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel, to a non-profit, which then gave the money to nine catholic schools, plus the Iowa Christian Academy. The Polk County Board of Supervisors says the money was spent on technology and equipment. Mauro says he and the rest of the board did nothing wrong, despite reporting by the Des Moines Register calling into question how the Polk County funds were spent. The Register reports Polk County routed $844,000 in public money to religious schools in 2012 and 2013, which it also says violates state law and county policies prohibiting public funding for religious institutions.

Mauro, the county supervisor who brought both grant requests to the board and recommended their approval, says he and the board have been transparent about everything they've done.

"We're constantly giving that money to the schools," said Mauro. "And let me just say this, we're also, with Prairie Meadows money, have given about $11 million to public schools. So it's not like we're just picking and choosing."

Mauro is proud of the money that's been given back to the community.

"It's changed the way people live," he said. "So I'm very proud to see what this county has done, and this county steps up and is very transparent, and that's the thing that kind of bothers me the most. We show everything here. You guys want to see it, it's there."

County Attorney John Sarcone also says what the board did was completely legal.