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Culver campaign criticizes Reynolds' role in tax site selection

Iowa Republican Lt. Governor nominee Kim Reynolds addresses supporters during a campaign stop at the Johnson County Republican Headquarters Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 in Coralville, Iowa. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
Iowa Republican Lt. Governor nominee Kim Reynolds addresses supporters during a campaign stop at the Johnson County Republican Headquarters Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 in Coralville, Iowa. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver’s campaign is questioning the role Sen. Kim Reynolds, the GOP lieutenant governor candidate, played in getting a government contract for a West Des Moines company who later hired her.

Reynolds, who served on the Senior Policy Group for the Iowa State County Treasurers Association until 2008, recommended ABC Virtual Communications be selected to host the website through which 88 Iowa counties process online payments of vehicle license renewal and property taxes.

Donn Stanley, Culver campaign manager, criticized Reynolds for allowing the West Des Moines software company to access a password-protected portion of a rival’s website.

“It raises questions because Branstad has designated her to be in charge of economic development and she has refused to do debates or submit to any rigorous press or scrutiny,” Stanley said this week. “She has been touting this treasurers’ thing and it turns out there are questions.”

Culver, a Democrat, is running against Reynolds’s ticket mate, Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad.

Reynolds said there is no link between her role with the county treasurers’ group and her January 2009 hire as business development manager at ABC Virtual.

“My affiliation with ABC Virtual was not connected to the treasurers’ group,” said Reynolds, who is on leave from the firm to campaign.

ABC Virtual, which processes hundreds of millions of dollars in tax payments each year through IowaTreasurers.org, has a five-year contract with the 88 counties. Another 11 counties—including Linn, Johnson and Polk—use a separate website hosted by Iowa Interactive.

Before getting the five-year deal in late 2008, ABC Virtual was selected in July 2007 to develop and host the website until the group could seek competitive bids.

Reynolds was on the three-person group that recommended the company in 2007. She was not part of a committee that selected ABC Virtual through a competitive bid process in early 2009.

Iowa Interactive, a Des Moines firm that previously hosted a site for all 99 Iowa counties, complained in a letter to the association in July 2007 that someone from the Senior Policy Group “actively sought to circumvent the intellectual property rights of Iowa Interactive” by allowing ABC Virtual to access the members-only portion of the Iowa Interactive website.

Reynolds said she thought the counties owned the website and could access it as they chose. “As soon as Iowa Interactive said, ‘No, that doesn’t include the member site’, then it was ceased,” she said.

Stanley said he is concerned about the allegation of intellectual property infringement. “That would be significant for the person in charge of economic development not to understand the proprietary rights of the vendor,” he said. “It is not a sign of confidence for someone in that position.”

Other county treasurers praised Reynolds’s work to create the site for online tax payments.“She was key in helping develop that online system,” said Dallas County Treasurer Darrell Bauman, a Republican. “She is to be commended for that.”

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