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County finds possible conflict of interest with Thompson True Value, but officials aren’t concerned

T-R FILE PHOTO - The old Thompson True-Value building demolition received more than $14,000 in TIF funding.

Among the findings in Marshall County’s Fiscal Year 2018 audit approved last week was a possible conflict of interest between the county and Thompson True Value hardware store.

The store is owned by Marshall County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Dave Thompson.

Elizabeth Miller of Bowman and Miller P.C., the firm that conducted the audit, said she is not concerned with the finding. The audit shows the county spent $2,736 at the store, higher than the $1,500 permissible in the Iowa Code.

“It’s more just a disclosure than anything. Just because it exceeds the limit that the code section has established, we’re required to report it,” Miller said. “It’s not transactions with him (Thompson) personally, it’s just with Thompson True Value itself.”

She said the finding is not concerning and that several small towns and other counties Bowman and Miller does audits for have similar findings each year.

Thompson said he makes sure to not get personally involved in business between Thompson True Value and the county.

“We’re the oldest business in town, and they’ve been doing business with Marshall County since 1860. When I got elected, I made a conscious decision that I will not discuss any business between the store and any of the county offices personally,” Thompson said. “I make them do that with my employees.”

Miller and Thompson said the county purchased basic supplies like ice melt from Thompson True Value.

Supervisor Bill Patten said some supplies were also bought from the store in the immediate aftermath of the July 19 tornado. He and Thompson said they support increasing the Iowa Code spending limit beyond the current $1,500 limit.

Miller said that part of the law has been in place for over three decades.

“$1,500 these days doesn’t do much,” Patten said.

Thompson said he has spoken with local lawmakers Sen. Jeff Edler and Rep. Dean Fisher about introducing legislation to raise the limit. He said the Legislative Services Agency has also been involved.

“We’ve got some legislation that is being sponsored by both Edler and Fisher to raise the amount to $6,000 with a 1-percent annual cost adjustment on top of that,” Thompson said.

Patten and Thompson said the county officials who directly work with Thompson True Value employees are department heads, such as County Engineer Paul Geilenfeldt and Buildings and Grounds Director Lucas Baedke.

“I’m strictly hands-off. It’s a direct order to the people of the county,” Thompson said. “It’s not a law, it’s just my way of doing things.”

Other findings

The audit report shows the county brought in more money than it spent between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

•The total revenues came to $24,463,435, including $13,968,501 in the county’s portion of property taxes.

•The total expenditures came to $22,284,559. Of that amount, $8.3 million was spent for roads and transportation, $7.7 million for public safety and legal services, and $2.5 million for administration.

Patten said the audit for the current year will likely show a different story.

“In 2019, because of the tornado, we’re going to be a little tighter,” he said.

For the full FY 2018 Marshall County audit report, visit https://www.auditor.iowa.gov/reports/ and search for Marshall County. Physical copies can also be viewed at the board of supervisors office on the second floor of the Great Western Bank building, 11 N. First Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or

asodders@timesrepublican.com

Editor’s note: This story was updated with the correct spelling of Sen. Jeff Edler’s name.