Midwest Briefs

Wisconsin State Farmer
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Iowa State tax expert used school for personal gain

A prominent agricultural law expert used his position at Iowa State University to collect $278,000 in consulting fees after school officials failed to manage his conflict of interest for years, auditors said Tuesday.

Roger McEowen, the former director of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, was paid for more than 100 seminars and speeches that he conducted on university time and using the center's staff and materials, according to a report from the state auditor. Instead of depositing the money with the center, it went to his business, which offered the same educational and legal services that McEowen received $140,000 a year from ISU to perform.

The university requested the audit in May 2015 after receiving a complaint alleging he often missed work to run his business. He was placed on leave in December and resigned in January.

McEowen listed his business on annual disclosure forms required by the university, saying that it gave legal and tax advice, ran seminars and performed other consulting work.

McEowen also falsified some expense reports by claiming reimbursement for mileage that he didn't drive, had the center create a temporary job for his daughter and hosted expensive summer seminars at luxurious resorts in Lake Tahoe, California and Estes Park, Colorado that provided little benefit to Iowa residents, auditors said.

Iowa State spokesman John McCarroll said the university is reviewing its "processes regarding conflicts of interest, fiscal responsibilities and proper accounting and management of personal businesses." The university also will wait for prosecutors to determine whether to bring criminal charges before taking any steps to seek restitution.


Western Illinois using federal grant for rural development

Western Illinois University says it plans to use a federal grant to continue a program aimed at helping rural communities in the state.

A news release from Western Illinois said Monday that the school will use a $96,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help pay for Western's Peace Corps Fellows Program in Community Development.

Karen Mauldin-Curtis is the program manager. She said the program sends graduate students to rural areas to help coordinate community and economic development projects.

She said the USDA has spent more than $800,000 on Western's program over the past 20 years.