The January firing of the former director of the Iowa Communication Network came after numerous red flags should have gained the attention of its clueless board or, perhaps, a curious legislator.
Ric Lumbard was axed following a report by State Auditor Mary Mosiman cited improper expenditures of $379,000 in taxpayer funds. Lumbard not only purchased equipment for his Wind and Fire Ministries, a nonprofit Christian agency based in Robins, but hired ministry staffers for lucrative ICN positions.
His alleged malfeasance came to light last summer after he suffered a heart attack and executive staffers questioned his management, prompting Mosiman’s investigation.
The ICN was founded in 1989 to provide broadband services to every corner of Iowa. Its selling point was educators could broadcast classes to schools without the in-house expertise, law enforcement could share information, and doctors in various specialties at Iowa’s leading medical facilities could review records of patients in distant communities.
Lumbard joined it in 2006 after a career as a technology manager in public education in Arizona and Cedar Rapids, then positions at Raytheon and USWEST. At the ICN, he was involved in various supervisorial capacities.
He was recommended to become executive director in 2014 by the Iowa Telecommunications and Technology Commission, which oversees the ICN, and unanimously approved by the Senate.
Meanwhile, he ran Wind and Fire Ministries, which offered “Night & Day Prayer, being a Place of Refuge and Restoration and Equipping in the Kingdom of God” while confronting human trafficking, with Lumbard promoting himself as a speaker and trainer.
Recently, it attempted to recruit hundreds of military veterans for its “Operation Zhero” treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, using unlicensed volunteers to provide free counseling.
Lumbard, who was paid $132,000 by the ICN, stated in tax records he worked 35 hours per week for the ministry, according to a Des Moines Register editorial.
That was one red flag, but many more existed, such as a taste for an unaffordable lifestyle.
His 2004 bankruptcy filing listed $348,000 in debts, including more than $112,000 in credit-card bills; $160,000 for a Cessna Golden Eagle airplane and nearly $43,000 for aircraft maintenance expenses.
Lumbard hired Jessica Jensen from his ministry as his executive secretary, despite not meeting job qualifications, giving her raises of 14 percent after six months and 12 percent a year later, bringing her salary to $61,000.
Jensen told a Department of Criminal Investigations special agent her duties were going into Lumbard’s office with him “and talking all day.”
Lumbard traveled twice to Belize where Wind and Fire Ministries International is located, while Jensen, director of its international operation, took one trip there, but neither claimed vacation time.
Lumbard hired another unqualified ministry associate, Taylor Boulet, for a $98,600 position over ICN executive staff objections for a job the state hadn’t approved. The audit found Boulet had “no meaningful work” to do when lawmakers weren’t in session.
The ICN paid $50,019 for Lumbard to use a state vehicle for his 133-mile commute from his Robins home to Des Moines. It bought Lumbard and Jensen four Google Home units for $547 for their “personal use.”
Last year, over executive staff objections, Lumbard instructed an ICN vendor to purchase and deliver to Wind and Fire Ministries two former TV production trailers and a truck from California — with expenses over $50,000 billed separately to avoid competitive-bidding requirements — to become mobile units to support communications during disasters and promote cyber education.
The trailers had equipment the ICN didn’t need. So Lumbard told a staffer to sell 15 items on eBay through COH Logistics. Lumbard and his wife serve on its board. The ICN never got the $2,319, and the truck was not in condition to be transported. Lumbard didn’t seek a refund.
In another no-bid contract, ICN paid $71,187 for Character Genetics, which had a prior relationship for Wind and Fire Ministries, to provide leadership training.
As for Lumbard, the DCI is “looking into the criminal acts of theft,” felonious misconduct in office and misappropriation of money to Jensen.
Dick Bruner, chairman of the Iowa Telecommunications and Technology Commission, contended board members provided oversight, just not on such things as individual expenses or line-item spending — prerequisites for jobs paying $14,000 to $20,000.
According to Mosiman, a nonvoting, ex-officio member of the board, it also failed to get feedback on Lumbard’s performance.
Because of their failure to do their basic jobs, while allowing Lumbard to make a public agency his personal fiefdom, the board members should resign or be removed by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
And legislators should consider the possibility the ICN isn’t an isolated agency run amok.