Iowa prison captain fired over improper ammunition buys

IOWA CITY — The Iowa Department of Corrections fired a prison captain after finding that he purchased ammunition for his and other employees’ personal use through its supplier at the tax-free government rate, documents show.

D.J. Quinlan, a supervisor at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville, was fired Feb. 17 after spending nine months on paid leave during a disciplinary investigation that the department had ordered him to keep quiet. His firing became public last week when Quinlan appealed it to the Public Employment Relations Board. A criminal investigation into his alleged misconduct remains open.

Tom Reid, who’s representing Quinlan, said officials are overreacting to an innocent effort by Quinlan to allow employees to purchase ammunition with their own money at the state price. Quinlan, a prison firearms instructor, claims the arrangement helped employees practice on their personal time and had been approved by managers, who deny that assertion.

“He has 32 years of service, not one iota of discipline and excellent performance reviews. What’s the state doing firing this guy?” said Reid, the prison’s retired security director, who argued that badges and uniforms can be purchased under similar arrangements.

State officials say some of the bullets weren’t the type that employees fire during annual proficiency tests, suggesting those orders were personal. They allege Quinlan committed fraud when he signed and backdated a document certifying that the purchases were tax-exempt because they were for the department’s “exclusive use.”

Quinlan made the orders beginning in 2013 through Ultramax, which has a contract to supply ammunition to state agencies, submitting them on prison letterhead but requesting they be shipped to his home. Ultramax charged the state rate, which was attractive to employees during a time of skyrocketing ammunition prices. Quinlan paid and was reimbursed by employees as shipments arrived.

The purchases didn’t face sales tax from the South Dakota-based supplier, but the state is alleging an 11 percent excise tax on ammunition should have applied. Reid said Quinlan signed the tax-exemption certification because Ultramax directed him to do so to complete an order, saying Quinlan had no intent to commit fraud or avoid taxes.