September 27, 2022

Cupples refutes Parrott’s past claims that it would take longer for agencies to receive their share of federal funds

Supervisor goes on the offensive against auditor to get ARPA projects their money

From left: Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott and Jasper County Supervisor Doug Cupples argued over the dispersal of $150,000 of ARPA funds to five individual projects. Parrott led supervisors to believe there would be a long delay because of an issue he was having with a website, but Cupples told him that excuse was a lie and accused the auditor of purposefully delaying the allotment of funds. File photos.

Jasper County Supervisor Doug Cupples said the county auditor is a liar after it was revealed on Aug. 9 that the excuse Dennis Parrott gave to the board and the public about the hold-up over federal stimulus money was not true, inevitably resulting in yet another heated argument in the supervisors chambers.

The county has its American Rescue Plan Act funds and supervisors are well within their right to distribute the money, Cupples suggested.

Which contradicts a statement Parrott made a week before when he claimed the five entities receiving a total of $150,000 in ARPA funds would have to wait because of an authorization issue with the website SAM.gov. Parrott claimed the website authorizes all ARPA expenditures, which Cupples refuted.

For the past year, the county has not spent any of of its ARPA funds, which totals $7.2 million. The county was beginning to make headway on distributing money to individual projects when its ARPA committee was formed and made the recommendation to allot 2 percent of its funds to smaller projects.

The board of supervisors voted to do so on July 5, but only after its financial advisor reviewed the projects. Four weeks later, during the Aug. 2 supervisors meeting, the board authorized financial advisor Public Financial Management to determine the projects’ eligibility to receive ARPA funds.

At which time Parrott was questioned about the timeline of the funds by Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop, who argued organizations have been patiently waiting to receive their money. Parrott would not give a firm date and said they would have to wait longer to receive their money because of the SAM.gov issue.

However, Cupples found that the SAM registration — which is needed in order for counties to receive funds — has nothing to do with ARPA spending. Since the county has received both disbursements of its ARPA money, it can now work under the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s final rules guidance on allocation.

In a letter from PFM to Parrott dated Aug. 8, the financial advisor believes the five allocations are appropriate uses of Jasper County’s ARPA funds. They include: EMS storage racks, emergency radios and donations to the American Legion Post 111, the astronomical observatory and the county fair board.

Furthermore, PFM goes on to say that because Jasper County decided to take the standard allowance for its ARPA funds, it reduces some of the regulatory requirements. Eventually, Cupples would make a motion to pay the groups their portion of the ARPA funds, but not before a long argument with Parrott.

JASPER COUNTY HAS ITS ARPA FUNDS, JUST NEEDS ACCOUNT IDS

Cupples alleged the SAM.gov excuse was false. Parrott said it was “exactly how (he) believed it to be” based on the communications he received. The county auditor claimed he has no reason to keep money from anybody and then said Cupples has no idea what he is talking about.

When Parrott argued with Bishop — who is chairperson of the ARPA committee — about the federal stimulus funds one week before, he told the board he would inform the other committee members about the SAM.gov issue. In the correspondence, Parrott includes an email from an ARPA fund administrator.

The email seemingly confirmed what Parrott was saying about the SAM.gov recertification and a bad data dump from Dun & Bradstreet. But Cupples looked further into the matter and found out the email was not in reference to ARPA funds resources but rather just a general issue with SAM.gov recertification.

Cupples believed Parrott was misleading the board. Parrott later reached out to Newton News and said the reason he included the email was to show other counties were having problems with SAM.gov. He also provided an email from an agency wanting to help the county with its issues.

The agency notes in its email to Parrot that not completing the registration may run the risk of interference and/or delay with federal government funding or awards. The registrations must be current and active to receive payments from the federal government. But the county has already received its ARPA payments.

“You literally created a situation in which we as a group of people listen to you and trust you. I mean you’re an advisor to us, and I trusted you. You literally have gone too far,” Cupples said. “It’s just too much, Dennis. It’s so difficult for me to trust you at this point for something simple like that.”

Cupples said he sits with the other two supervisors week after week and listens to Parrott “sway” and “turn” them, and the auditor has broken his trust.

“We have come to a spot where I am just not going to take this anymore,” Cupples said. “This is out of control. And you, sir, are a wordsmith. I don’t know how to explain it. You’re like a great athlete that is unmanageable and teams don’t take, because you’re a liability to their team.”

The supervisors, Cupples said, are going to pass the motion to disperse the county’s ARPA funds, and Parrott will do what the board says because he is not a supervisor. Parrott said he cannot legally do it without a claim and signatures from supervisors. He then asked for Bishop to produce the federal IDs.

Bishop said if the issue is actually as simple as finding a government number to pay the individual entities, it will be rather easy since many of them are already in the county system, such as the sheriff’s office and the health department. If Parrott’s office needs the Legion’s number, Bishop said he could get it.

Within the next few minutes of the meeting, Bishop was able to acquire the ID number for the American Legion and gave it to Parrott after the meeting.

WAS IT A MISTAKE OR INTENTIONAL? WHY SAY THERE IS A DELAY?

Cupples said Parrott manipulated the Jasper County Board of Supervisors. The vice-chair of the supervisors also drew criticism of Parrott’s correspondence to ARPA committee members, which looks as if the ARPA funds administrator is sending an email directly to Parrott.

But Cupples alleged it was a response on a forum that Parrott “plucked out” and used to his advantage. Parrott said it is not a forum, it is a communications system made by the Iowa State Association of Counties called Basecamp. In the ARPA committee letter, Parrott said the email was sent to all Iowa auditors.

Cupples reiterated the SAM.gov registration has nothing to do with ARPA funding aside from needing the verification to receive the installments of the federal stimulus, which the county has already done. Parrott said he did what he believed was right and insisted he is a cautious person.

“I just don’t want to be writing checks to be writing checks,” Parrott said. “It was presented that these were all emergencies, we needed to get them as fast as we can. That does not turn out to be exactly right. We were just being cautious. That’s all it was. There was no conspiracy or anything else.”

Cupples interjected, “You had the letter (from PFM) on the 8th of July, and you did not present it to us as expected.”

“I apologize. I don’t know why I … the letter he’s talking about is the PFM contract so that PFM could look at it. I’m not sure why that slipped past the cracks, Doug,” Parrott said. “I’m human like everybody else. You know, if I ran the county like you do we’d go broke.”

To change the subject, Parrott said Cupples was handed a list of expenditures. This kind of thing happens every two weeks, so it is a seemingly regular occurrence. The county spent more than $1 million and Cupples never opened the document before signing it, Parrot said.

Again, Parrott reiterated he was being cautious.

“If I made a mistake or two somewhere, I made a mistake or two somewhere,” Parrott said.

DRIFTING OFF-TOPIC, POTENTIAL GASLIGHTING

Parrott asked supervisor Denny Carpenter if he thinks he intentionally did something bad to the county. Carpenter said no. Cupples fired back to Parrott that he blatantly and purposefully lied to the board of supervisors. Parrott said he told the board of supervisors what he thought was right.

“This sounds like fake news, guys,” Parrott said. “Here’s a guy who doesn’t pay a bit of attention to the county and he gets a chance to jump on somebody who has been very cautious with our money, and he takes that opportunity.”

Cupples said, “That is not what you were doing. You didn’t like where the money was going. You didn’t like where the money was going so you held it up on purpose. I didn’t believe that last week, and now that I know the truth I do.”

There is some evidence to suggest Parrott did not like what the money was being spent on. Many elected county officials serve on the ARPA committee. When the group met in June to review its recommendation to supervisors over the five projects, Parrott voted against it. But the recommendation passed 9-2.

Parrott said Cupples can believe what he wants. Again, the county auditor dismissed Cupples and his arguments.

“You try to get involved in places that you don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t do much for the county. I’m sorry you don’t. You’re never here,” Parrott said.

Parrott brought up a conversation he had with Rep. Jon Dunwell that morning. Dunwell, who was in attendance, interrupted the county auditor and told him to not mention his name or get him involved. Parrott changed his story that he was talking to “somebody” and then immediately ignored Dunwell’s request.

“I said, ‘You know, Jon, the county used to work together, and we do a lot for the supervisors. But when it comes to defending what we try to, with doing it the best we can the way we sit it, we’ve gotten to the point where we’re just like the outside world,’” Parrott said, lamenting the culture of immediacy.

Cupples said Parrot just described himself by not getting what he wants and then throwing a fit about it. Cupples reigned in the conversation, saying this is not about what he wants but what the supervisors agreed upon.

Parrott alleged he received an email from PFM saying Cupples was causing a problem for the company by trying to pressure them to give the information. Cupples said he heard that rumor. Parrott claimed it was a fact. Cupples said he contacted PFM because he believed Parrott was holding back information.

MAKING THE MOTION TO PAY ARPA PROJECTS

Carpenter said he wanted the issue sorted out now before voting on a motion. Cupples contended the supervisors have been given the OK from PFM to move forward, especially since the issue with SAM.gov is not affecting the county’s dispersal of money and even more so now after Bishop acquired the IDs.

Parrott said the auditor’s office is going to cut the checks anyway, regardless of the motion. Carpenter made a motion to pay the checks. Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma was not present during the meeting and was not able to vote on the matter, resulting in a 2-0 vote.

The sheriff explained he will order the radios, which will be paid for afterward. As for the astronomical observatory, an ID number still needs to be determined, and possibly whether county conservation or the Des Moines Astronomical Society will accept it; the latter of which wasn’t favorable by the board of supervisors.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.