Government

Iowa Environmental Protection Commission member fined $250 for not reporting outside income

Such reprimands rare, usually sparked by a complaint

Iowa DNR logo
Iowa DNR logo

The state ethics board last month issued a rare reprimand and $250 penalty to an Environmental Protection Commission member for failing to report outside income, including consulting payments from Iowa Select, the nation’s largest pork producer.

Howard Hill, a Story County veterinarian, farmer and National Pork Producers Council president who has served on Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission since 2017, did not report for 2017 at least seven payments of more than $1,000 from various sources. They included leases to have cell towers on his land, leases of livestock buildings to Iowa Select and consulting arrangements with Iowa Select and DFS, according to a Sept. 25 order from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

Hill’s 2018 filing was more complete, but still did not disclose consulting work, the board found.

“We find that Dr. Hill’s statements for 2017 and 2018 were false because he failed to include some significant sources of income for those years,” the order said. Hill has since amended the filings.

The ethics board has issued only two such reprimands in the past five years, Executive Director Megan Tooker said. Connie Schmett, a former member of the Health Facilities Council, was fined $250 in February 2018 for failing to disclose more than $100,000 she and her husband were paid by the government of Saudi Arabia for consulting work.

The ethics board usually investigates personal financial disclosures only if there’s a complaint, Tooker said. That’s what happened in the Hill case, when someone complained in April that Hill had failed to report all sources of income. The ethics board investigated, meeting with Hill on June 5 to review his disclosures and tax returns, the order states.

The complainant also questioned whether Hill had obtained consent from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which the Environmental Protection Commission regulates, to sell commodities, such as hogs, grain and cattle. The ethics board found Hill had consent to sell those products, but the DNR did not report the consent to the ethics board.

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DNR general counsel Kelli Book said Tuesday the agency is reviewing its rules and will work with the ethics board to ensure the proper documents are submitted.

If Hill opposes the reprimand, he has until Oct. 25 to request a contested case hearing.

The Environmental Protection Commission is a nine-member board that provides policy oversight of Iowa’s environmental protection efforts.

Hill worked for Iowa Select from 2000 to 2012 in roles including chief operating officer and director of animal well-being. Before that, he was director of veterinary services and multiplication for Murphy Family Farms in Rose Hill, N.C., and head of veterinary microbiology at the Iowa State University Diagnostic Laboratory, according to the National Pork Producers Council website.

Hill and his son farm 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, also raising hogs and cattle, near Cambridge.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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