Iowa auditor seeks mandatory prison for public money theft

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand on Thursday proposed legislation requiring mandatory prison time for those convicted of theft involving public money.

Sand's proposal came just days after an investigative story by Cedar Rapids television station KCRG that found only about 40% of special investigative reports from the auditor's office dating to January 2017 led to criminal prosecution. KCRG calculated that meant no one has been held responsible for at least $8 million in improperly used public funds.

Sand told KCRG that his bill will require mandatory prison time for felonies involving the theft of $1,000 or more in public money, as well as for misusing tax credits.

His proposal doesn't have a mandatory minimum sentence, Sand said, but will seek to stop those convicted of serious financial crimes receiving only probation.

"I think the policy will give county attorneys controls that they need to make these prosecutions more realistic and more achievable in their offices," said Sand, who worked as a prosecutor in the state attorney general's office before being elected auditor in 2018.

Several lawmakers said they were open to Sand's proposal.

"I will work with our county attorneys and look at our criminal code to see what is needed to make sure people who hurt people are held accountable," said Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson, of Marion.

Democratic state Sen. Liz Mathis, of Hiawatha, says she's also interested in seeing Sand's bill.

But Republican state Sen. Dan Zumbach, of Ryan, questioned Sand's impartiality, adding that "it concerns me Auditor Sands wants to be Judge, jury, prosecutor, and criminal sentencer when he is simply the auditor."

Sand, a Democrat, responded by saying that if wanting to ensure justice for those who steal taxpayer money "is somehow the wrong thing to say, then I don't want to be right."

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