Investigation links missing Iowa Athletic Commission funds to ex-employee

Former employee suspected of embezzlement of funds from Iowa Athletic Commission.

According to a report released by the Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand’s office on Wednesday, an investigation was initiated following a complaint of financial misconduct by a former employee of the Iowa Athletic Commission. The investigation revealed that the employee in question is linked to over $17,000 of funds that were either not collected or not deposited from various athletic events. It is reported that the employee has since been terminated from their position.

According to the report, due to inadequate records, it was not possible to determine if there were additional missing funds. The report suggested that accounting procedures should be tightened and communication improved to avoid such situations in the future.

Fired Employee at the Center of Investigation

The focus of the investigation was on Dawn Chamberlain, a previous program planner for the athletic commission. The commission, which was part of Iowa Workforce Development before being transferred to the new Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing in July, is responsible for granting permits and gathering fees for both professional and amateur sporting events held in Iowa.

Recently, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law that limits the authority of Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand. The move has sparked controversy and concern across the state. Here’s a breakdown of what the law entails.

In November 2022, a complaint was received and investigated by workforce development, alleging that Chamberlain, who served as the “head of athletics,” was accepting bribes and engaging in under-the-table deals. Following the agency’s request, the auditor’s office initiated an investigation into the matter.

During the news conference, Sand acknowledged the significance of both workforce development and the person responsible for providing the tip.

Sand praised the workforce development team for conducting a thorough internal investigation. They recognized the importance of having an independent investigation and called in outside help to ensure objectivity, which Sand believes is a best practice.

According to the auditor’s report, Chamberlain, a dedicated state employee of 15 years, was put on paid administrative leave on November 16, 2022, and subsequently terminated on December 15 after an internal investigation.

On Wednesday, there was no comment available from Chamberlain, who served as a member of the athletic commission starting from March of last year.

Review finds missing licensing fees, taxes

According to the auditor’s report, Chamberlain was responsible for various tasks within the commission, including collecting checks and monitoring payments received. However, during the investigation, Chamberlain claimed that he did not handle any checks. Nevertheless, the information provided to the auditor’s office suggested otherwise.

During the investigation of license fees for various combat sports events in 203, it was discovered that a significant amount of money had not been deposited. Out of $54,950 owed, $12,925 was found to be missing. Additionally, the report stated that $4,281 out of $237,491 in tax receipts for the events were also unaccounted for. In total, the missing funds amounted to $17,206. However, it was unclear whether the money owed had been paid at all.

An audit conducted on a small town in Iowa has uncovered almost $100,000 worth of transactions deemed improper.

According to the report, it was discovered that Chamberlain had received a check for $4,325 meant for paying Xtreme Fighting Championship officials. However, investigators found that only $2,550 of the amount was actually paid to the officials, while the rest was deposited into her personal bank account. Despite Chamberlain’s claims that the officials had also received cash payments, the remaining funds from the check were not deposited with the Iowa Athletic Commission.

According to the report, Chamberlain was given gifts worth $1,742 which included airfare, hotel accommodations, and a ringside seat at an event in Denver. Additionally, she confessed to receiving $1,000 from a promoter, as well as having her hotel bill paid for acting as a “deputy” at an event in Michigan. During the event, she reportedly issued a suspension to an athlete, despite lacking the proper authorization to do so.

According to reports, when Chamberlain was asked about the prohibited gifts, she responded by stating that “everyone else in the office accepts insane amounts of gifts.” However, she did not disclose any names of individuals who may have accepted gifts, except for mentioning that a former athletics commissioner had accepted a plane ride, which was later clarified as part of an Iowa National Guard program to express gratitude to bosses who support their employees’ military service.

According to the report, Iowa Workforce Development and the Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing have stated that they were not aware of any other cases where gifts were accepted.

As per the investigations, several anomalies came to light, including a spreadsheet shared with a promoter that showed payment of fees to be made at the event instead of before, as mandated by Iowa law. Additionally, the report highlighted that the athlete bloodwork needs to be submitted before the event, which was not followed as the bloodwork was accepted even after the event.

According to the report, Chamberlain was accused of misrepresenting her role within the athletic commission and attending events without proper approval from the commissioner. It seems that her actions were not entirely transparent and may have caused confusion about her actual position.

The direction of the investigation remains uncertain

According to Sand’s office, they have the authority to investigate cases, but the final decision to file criminal charges lies with law enforcement agencies. In the report, Sand mentioned that the findings were shared with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Polk County Attorney’s Office, and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. During the news conference, Sand made it clear that it is not his policy to provide any recommendations regarding prosecution.

In addition, he mentioned that there is a potential option to pursue compensation for the financial losses through a civil lawsuit.

He expressed his optimism that the promoters who have not settled their accounts with the state of Iowa would do the right thing and pay what they owe. He also mentioned that if they fail to do so, the state authorities could pursue legal action against them.

According to him, this particular case highlights the disadvantages of conducting financial transactions with the state using cash.

According to him, it is a common occurrence in their reports that cash payments fail to reach their intended bank accounts. The problem with dealing in cash is that it becomes nearly impossible to track where the money went. As he puts it, “It’s impossible when you’re dealing with cash for anyone to tell you what exactly happened to that money.”

Sand shared that during the investigation, one of the promoters his office spoke with revealed that it was common practice for him to bring an envelope filled with cash to cover his expenses at events.

“He expressed that relying solely on that method would not be the best way to ensure attention to detail and accuracy,” he said.

According to the only elected Democratic statewide officeholder in Iowa, Tom Sand, the investigation was almost finalized before a bill was passed in the recent legislative session that took away several of his powers, including his ability to gather some information from state agencies in the course of investigations.

According to him, an establishment like the State Auditor’s Office plays a vital role in investigating and verifying any tips or leads that suggest suspicious activities. It is their sole responsibility to delve deeper into these matters to determine whether or not there is any wrongdoing taking place.

The source of this story is the Des Moines Register, and their report states that an investigation has linked missing funds from the Iowa Athletic Commission to a former employee.

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