MUSCATINE — Councilman Michael Rehwaldt said the results of the state's audit into the city's travel expenses, "could not be better."
City Administrator Gregg Mandsager has yet to comment on the re-audit report, which evaluated more than $4,000 in city expenses incurred during a trip to China in 2014. State Auditor Mary Mosiman found insufficient documentation to prove the public purpose of the trip and a lack of transparency in how some expenses were reported.
The auditor also questioned 14 expenditures recorded as "Advertising and Publications" and found travel authorization forms were not completed, as required by city policy. The report said the methods used were "misleading to the citizens" and recommended having the council preapprove all travel to China and document its public purpose, and to implement procedures that allowed for transparency.
In a press release, the city said there were "no major issues" found in the audit, and that it disagrees with all of the auditor's findings and recommendations, finding them "outside the scope of the state auditor's authority." The release also said the city does not plan to implement policy changes as a result, and that the trip was related to economic development, including a "significant amount of Chinese investment in developments in the city" that are ongoing. It also said it had recorded spending as it had in order to be able to more easily track those costs.
Rehwaldt, the first city official to comment publicly, seconded that response.
"First, the state auditor confirmed that not one penny was missing and not one penny was spent without proper documentation," Rehwaldt said, in an email. "I salute our fine award-winning city treasurer for her exemplary work."
Rehwaldt also took aim at Mayor Diana Broderson, who called for the state auditor to review the city's books.
She has said residents questioned the trip, and in response, she contacted city officials, the state ombudsman and then the state auditor. It was one of her first actions in office, and was among the issues council members cited when they removed her from office in May, saying she had a pattern of making baseless or false accusations against city officials. In an interview last week, Broderson argued the re-audit would not have been necessary if expenditures were initially recorded with transparency.
"The audit provided a perfect example of Ms. Broderson's behavior—making repeated accusations with no basis in fact. And costing the taxpayers of Iowa and Muscatine money needlessly," Rehwaldt said in an email. "Once again [Broderson] has willfully ignored city code and state law in pursuit of her desire to cause needless trouble and harm. Broderson has done this time and time again. She cannot say she didn't know what she was doing. To say she didn't know the gun was loaded might work once, but not 15 times.
"The troublesome behavior in violation of city code and law is what the controversy is all about," Rehwaldt said. "It is time this stopped."
About a month after being removed from office, a Muscatine County District Court judge reinstated her, pending final ruling on her appeal.
Saturday morning, Broderson announced she will run for re-election and plans to continue hearing and investigating residents’ concerns.
"In her announcement Saturday that she is running for re-election, [Broderson] strongly hinted that she plans to continue this behavior," Rehwaldt said. "Enough is enough."
Other city officials and city council members did not respond to a request for comment.