UPDATE: Pending investigation of Landfill follows audit

An investigation is pending of the North Central Iowa Regional Solid Waste Agency, following an audit.

Webster County Attorney Cori Coleman said she was unable to give any more details about the pending investigation until and unless charges are filed.

Former Landfill Director Mike Grell resigned from his position in April 2013, and was replaced by Interim Director Cindy Turkle. Deb Watson, director of recycling and administration/finance, was terminated September 2013, according to the audit.

An unemployment insurance appeals record from Iowa Workforce Development states that Watson was disqualified from earning unemployment benefits due to misconduct.

A message left on Watson’s phone was not returned Thursday morning.

The unemployment appeal states that in February, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources investigated the board’s failure to respond to several notices of violations at the landfill. Watson had received the notices but not forwarded them to the board, the appeal states.

The audit addresses several areas of concern, including a potential conflict of interest in a gravel hauling contract, the agency’s actions pertaining to the sale of land and concerns that meetings were held without a quorum. The audit is for the period July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012.

The audit states that the Agency hired Gypsum Hollow Industries to haul gravel, paying about $995,000 from September 2012 to February 2013.

There was no indication in the board’s minutes that the bidding process was completed when hiring GHI, according to the audit. The landfill director told the board he could find the needed gravel at $14 per ton, but the quote from GHI was at $15.40 per ton. The owner of GHI is the son of former Landfill Director Grell.

The audit also states the Agency sold 27.2 acres of land for $5,695, or $209 per acre. No vote on the sale of land was taken by the full board. The Webster County Assessor’s website lists the assessed value of the land as $10,810.

The unemployment appeal states that Watson was writing and also signing checks to vendors, while the proper proceedure is for one person to write the check and another authorized person to sign it.

Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell, who joined the Agency’s executive committee in January 2013, said questions should be referred to their attorney, Steven Kersten. Attempts to reach Kersten were unsuccessful Thursday morning.

“We’ve hired a consulting firm, brought them in, and hired some new staff, and we’re following through on the audit recommendations,” Campbell said. “Our board is fully supporting the interim director, and working with the DNR to take any and all corrective measures needed.”

The full audit report may be found at http://is.gd/FDLandfill_audit