Democrats Question New Agency Head

Feb 12, 2016

The director of an embattled state agency took questions this week from statehouse Democrats over nearly one million dollars in improper payments of unemployment benefits.     

State Auditor Mary Mosiman reports that Iowa Workforce Development sent benefits to applicants who claimed to work for companies that didn’t exist.

In addition, legitimate recipients received 700,000 dollars in overpayments.  

Waterloo Democrat Bill Dotzler says some workers came forward and reported that there had been a mistake.

“It’s going to be my recommendation that we don’t go after those individuals, especially after they tried to return the resources,” Dotzler said.

“In terms of whether we will try to collect the money back, I don’t think anyone is advocating for that,” replied IWD Director Beth Townsend.   She took over the agency from former director Teresa Wahlert who was in charge when the improper payments occurred.

Wahlert faced criticism for her management of the agency.   She retired last year.    It was unlikely she would have been confirmed for reappointment by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Townsend says Workforce Development is striving to reduce the number of fraudulent claims and to avoid overpayments in the future.

“There have always been safeguards to prevent overpayment,” Townsend says.

Officials say a telephone system malfunction caused the overpayments.  

The agency has a new data analytics tool to help identify fraud more rapidly.