Four and bisected years ago, the lath associates of the Iowa Alliance of Cities heard a alternation of recommendations from the organization’s attorney.
According to the lath minutes, the advocate recommended “that the alliance activate filing anniversary tax returns, both Anatomy 990 and anatomy 990-T.” Although the alliance doesn’t pay any taxes, the 990 filings would accommodate a accessible accounting of the organization’s sources of assets and its spending.
The league, which was formed in the backward 1800s, had never filed a Anatomy 990 and had never been congenital as a nonprofit organization. The league’s assessment was that as an IRS-recognized “instrumentality of government,” no Anatomy 990 bare to be filed. Most tax-exempt organizations charge book the form.
The lath chose not to chase its attorney’s recommendation. Today, the alliance says the advocate had alone appropriate there were “reasons it could be advisable to file” a Anatomy 990. Last week, the alliance banned The Des Moines Register’s appeal for a archetype of the attorney’s accounting recommendations.
None of this would be account advertence if it weren’t for the actuality that the alliance is alongside adjourned by taxpayers, partly through associates ante and fees paid by affiliate cities. The alliance is additionally adjourned through authoritative fees paid by the Iowa Municipalities Workers’ Advantage Association, which is an allowance basin for cities, counties and added authoritative entities.
As a a run tax-exempt organization, the alliance isn’t accountable to the Iowa open-records law or Iowa’s open-meetings law. That, accumulated with the abridgement of a federal Anatomy 990, agency the alliance isn’t accountable to any binding acknowledgment requirements with attention to its operations, alike admitting it spends at atomic $200,000 per year on lobbying at the Statehouse.
Some of the lobbying is committed to blocking legislation that is acutely in the accessible interest. A few years ago, for example, the alliance was acknowledged in briefly blocking the approval of a bill to actualize the Iowa Accessible Information Board. The alliance after characterized the bill’s defeat in the House as a “narrow escape,” attributable to its “strong opposition.”
This year, the alliance lobbied adjoin the accompaniment ombudsman’s efforts to admission the closed-session account and tapes of burghal councils and added accessible bodies so that it can investigate allegations of wrongdoing.
The league’s abridgement of banking acknowledgment sets it afar from added organizations like the Iowa Accompaniment Association of Counties, which files a Anatomy 990, and the Iowa Association of School Boards, which files a Anatomy 990 and is additionally accountable to the state’s open-records and open-meetings laws.
The National Alliance of Cities files a Anatomy 990 every year, as do 18 of the nation’s added accompaniment borough leagues. To its credit, the Iowa alliance voluntarily publishes an anniversary banking statement, as able-bodied as the account to its lath meetings. But accustomed the actuality that the alliance is assuming some of the basal functions of government, such as active a workers’ advantage basin for the absolute use of bounded government, and is accession added than $1 actor annually from its affiliate cities, it should be appropriate to acknowledge abundant more.
Executive Director Alan Kemp says the league’s administering lath is acquainted of the Anatomy 990’s amount in accouterment some admeasurement of accessible accountability, but has artlessly called not to book the report. As he explains it, “We’ve said, ‘Well, we don’t accept to do this, so let’s aloof not do it.’ “
That actuality the case, the Iowa Legislature needs to alter the state’s open-records law and open-meetings law to accommodate the Iowa Alliance of Cities as a accessible body. The Iowa Association of School Boards has been accountable to those laws anytime back it was rocked by a 2012 amount scandal, and that change, added than annihilation else, has helped restore accessible aplomb in the organization.
If the taxpayer-funded Iowa Alliance of Cities is, as it claims to be, an apparatus of government, again it should be captivated to authoritative standards of accessible disclosure. For that to happen, the Iowa Legislature needs to act.
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