Most of the time, state officials say, Joel McCubbin tried his luck at Jumer’s Casino and Hotel in Rock Island.
Other days, he’d hit the Wild Rose, Rhythm City or the Isle of Capri. And every now and again, he’d go to the Diamond Jo.
Over the course of eight years, McCubbin, a public works director who got full-time salaries from two local government bodies, was overpaid by $427,000 for work the Iowa State Auditor’s Office says he probably never performed. The figure includes his double-salary arrangement, duplicate expense reports, sick pay he was not supposed to receive and some afternoon work hours spent at area casinos.
On Tuesday, the state’s top financial watchdog issued a report that pointed to poor government oversight and gaps in review processes as having led to what it described as improper or unsupported disbursements.
An attempt to reach McCubbin on Tuesday was not successful. The auditor’s office said copies of the report were distributed to state and local law enforcement agencies. No criminal charges were filed against him as of Tuesday afternoon.
The report closes the book on a yearlong inquiry that began with complaints about McCubbin, who was reportedly spotted gambling by area residents on workday afternoons. By comparing his casino player card statements against his time cards, investigators identified 219 different days he was on the clock while at the casino between 2009 and 2017.
But in the grand scheme of things, the improper pay investigators say McCubbin got while he was at the casino was marginal: roughly $11,600. The larger figure identified by the auditor's office came from calculating the time for which McCubbin was paid to work for Park View's water sanitation district, a job they say he was only doing half the time.
For more than two decades, McCubbin simultaneously held two full-time jobs: one with the 850-person city of Long Grove and the other with neighboring Park View’s water sanitation district. Under his employment contracts, he was obligated to commit 40 hours per week to each one.
By re-evaluating the time he likely spent at work, the state auditor says McCubbin got more than $240,000 in extra wages and taxes paid by the water sanitation district. After Long Grove placed him on administrative leave last year, the report also says he was kept on the city payroll without good reason, adding another $117,000 to the office's over-payment estimate.
As the public works director, McCubbin oversaw several maintenance-related projects, including snow removal, fixing streets, flushing fire hydrants and performing building inspections. He told investigators the hours for each job varied and he often worked through the weekends to keep up with what was expected of him, according to the auditor's report.
McCubbin was fired from Park View last year, and resigned from Long Grove early last month.
Ahead of the investigation, questions were also raised about whether McCubbin properly administered building permits or misused a gas card paid for by the city. The state auditor found McCubbin had submitted duplicate claims to the city and district for postage expenses and got mileage reimbursements to drive a vehicle for which he already received a stipend, according to the report.
The investigators said they were unable to determine whether McCubbin gave preferential treatment to certain vendors.
To reach its conclusions, the state auditor’s office looked at bank statements, time cards and McCubbin’s casino player’s card statements dating back as early as 2009. The report notes that some information was unavailable, suggesting the total over-payment could have been higher.
Additionally, the state found that Long Grove officials improperly approved a $1,000-per-month stipend for four employees — including McCubbin — and failed to follow the city’s own sick leave policy, resulting in another $128,000 of improper city disbursements.
Along with its findings, the auditor’s office suggested that the city council and the water sanitation district board put in place new measures to prevent future financial mishaps. Those include creating a travel reimbursement policy, routinely reviewing financial transactions and developing a competitive-bid purchasing policy.