Iowa risk pool, under fire for travel, seeks to block audit

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A group that insures local governments across Iowa is going to court to try to block the state auditor from reviewing its spending, including travel to out-of-state vacation destinations.

The Iowa Communities Assurance Pool, which is owned by cities, counties and other governments, argues in a legal petition that it is not a “governmental subdivision” and that State Auditor Rob Sand has no authority to examine its finances.

Sand’s office began reviewing the pool’s finances in October after The Associated Press reported that its directors have routinely held public meetings at vacation resorts in Florida every February and in Michigan every August.

Those trips, which date back at least a decade, include several to islands off the coast of Florida and in Lake Michigan, and activities such as winery tours. Board members have also tripled their daily pay since 2010 to $300 for attending those meetings, which cost thousands of dollars in public funds but are virtually inaccessible to taxpayers.

The risk-sharing pool was formed in 1986 to offer liability and property coverage for local governments that were unable to afford the high cost of traditional insurance.

Pool leaders say they have been successful in offering coverage at fair and stable prices and serving the pool’s membership, which includes 75 of Iowa’s 99 counties and hundreds of cities and local fairs. Local governments paid the pool $38 million in premiums last year.