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State Auditor Investigates Former Employee's Spending At Iowa City Business Group

A state auditor's investigation alleges a former employee of an Iowa City business group improperly spent nearly half a million dollars with a company card.

An investigation by Iowa’s state auditor alleges a former employee of an Iowa City business group improperly spent nearly half a million dollars with a company credit card.

Sheri Jelinek was an employee at the Iowa City Area Development Group from 2003 to 2017, working most recently as the office manager before resigning in March of 2017.

Per an investigative report compiled by the office of State Auditor Rob Sand, in that time she opened a company credit card tied to the group’s checking account, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars without the authorization or knowledge of her employer. 

According to the report, the account was established with the University of Iowa Community Credit Union. After her resignation, a vendor alerted ICAD the card had expired, and representatives of the group reviewed account records and determined it was used "almost exclusively for personal purchases."

Sand’s office identified $466,874.73 in "improper disbursements" that were deemed personal in nature or not reasonable for the use of ICAD. The office also found $46,903.26 in "unsupported disbursements," for which there wasn't sufficient documentation or it wasn't clear if the items were for personal or business use. 

The report outlines Jelinek's spending, which included bills for accounts listed under her or her husband's name and connected to their personal residence, including services from Allstate Insurance, Verizon, Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative, Mediacom, Hulu and Sirius XM.

Records also show purchases by Jelinek at Walmart, Amazon, the Home Shopping Network and QVC. Items purchased include jewelry, men’s snow pants, Betty Crocker cookbooks, a pet bed and a "dog thundershirt," among other things. Other purchases that could have been for ICAD operations include coffee and office supplies.

The auditor’s report quotes Jelinek as saying, “The only thing I can think of is maybe I grabbed the wrong card."

The office has referred their findings to local, state and federal investigators and recommends ICAD segregate certain spending and accounting responsibilities across staffers and increase their internal oversight.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter