Dear Editor,

This November Northeast Iowans will choose our Iowa House representative for District 55, which includes parts of Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek Counties. Our current representative is Republican Michael Bergan of Dorchester. Two years ago, Bergan beat Democrat Kayla Koether by nine votes after a controversial vote count that left 29 mail-in ballots uncounted.

Since then, several news sources have reported questionable spending of taxpayer dollars by the ICAP board, which Mr. Bergan has been a member of for many years. ICAP stands for Iowa Communities Assurance Pool, and its function is to provide governmental bodies in Iowa a way to save money by self-insuring as a group. Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek Counties, as well as the communities of Calmar, Castalia, Decorah, Fort Atkinson, and Ossian, have paid public funds to ICAP for years, and have had every right to expect ICAP’s board of directors to spend their tax dollars responsibly.

But about a year ago the Associated Press (AP) reported that ICAP’s board of directors had long been holding its February board meeting in sun-belt vacation spots (Arizona, California, or, most often, South Florida), and its August meeting in Michigan, typically at a high-end Lake Michigan resort.  Since all of ICAP’s nine directors are Iowans and ICAP serves only public bodies in Iowa, expensive flights to meetings at posh out-of-state locales make no sense, increasing board meeting costs by many thousands of taxpayer dollars. The AP reported September 16, 2019 that ICAP paid more than $14,000 to the Lake Michigan resort, The Inn at Bay Harbor, for an August board meeting, in addition to the thousands spent to reimburse board members their travel and other costs. It also reported that board members “tripled their daily pay since 2010 to $300 for attending such board meetings and to $175 for traveling to and from them.” The Waterloo Courier, the Dubuque Herald, and the Quad City Times (among others) criticized these dubious practices.  (Google “ICAP board travel controversy” for more details.)  

This lavish spending of tax dollars has not been the only criticism of holding February board meetings in snow-bird venues and August meetings at Michigan resorts. These meetings are supposed to be reasonably accessible to every interested Iowan. Meeting in far-away vacation spots may please Mr. Bergan and the other board members, but did not serve the Iowa public.

Mr. Bergan has been enjoying these board member trips at taxpayer expense since 2012, and sometimes he formally asked the board to approve plans to meet in such exotic locations. After ICAP was caught with its hand in the cookie jar, it announced it would change its ways. But Mr. Bergan and the other board members had already shown how freely they could spend public money on themselves when no one seemed to be watching.

A recent article about the last legislative session in the Decorah Public Opinion (6/18/20) quoted Mr. Bergan boasting of “great strides” by his team in a budgeting effort “that values the hard-working taxpayers.” But when hard-working taxpayers were enduring the snow and ice of Iowa Februarys, Mr. Bergan and other board members were flying off to Florida’s Marco Island or the like, at the expense of the very taxpayers that Mr. Bergan claims to be so concerned about.

Mr. Bergan has proven untrustworthy when it comes to spending the money of Iowa taxpayers, and voters would do well to keep that in mind when he asks for our votes this election. 

Steve St. Clair