Marion Christian minister who ran Iowa’s broadband internet agency misused almost $380,000 in state funds, audit finds

Video still of Richard Lumbard appearing on IPTV in 2014.

The former head of the state agency that provides high-speed broadband service to Iowa schools and other public institutions misused $379,547 in state funds, according to a new report from the Iowa State Auditor’s Office. The report published on Thursday reviewed decisions by Iowa Communications Network (ICN) Executive Director Richard Lumbard between Jan. 1, 2015 and Jan. 2, 2018. Lumbard was fired two days after the audit concluded. He had been ICN executive director since 2014.

Many of the improper actions the report documents were related to Wind and Fire Ministries (WFM) Missions Base, a Christian organization in Marion founded by Lumbard and his wife, Christie. Lumbard, an ordained minister, served as WFM Missions Base executive director at the same time he was executive director for ICN. In 2016, the Des Moines Register reported that WFM’s tax filings showed Lumbard was working 35 hours a week for the ministry, while he was drawing a salary of $132,000 for his full-time ICN job.

The auditors concluded Lumbard “created unnecessary positions, hired unqualified individuals, and awarded excessive pay increases.” Those jobs and excessive pay increases went to people who had connections to Lumbard through WFM. In one of the cases, Lumbard hired an unqualified person for an executive position, even though “ICN officials voiced concerns the position [Boulet] was hired for was not needed,” the report states. From his hiring until his termination, that employee cost the state $98,600.

Businesses connected to Lumbard through WFM also did well while he was ICN executive director. For example, between January 2015 and October 2017, ICN paid $71,187 to a company called Character Genetics “for leadership training and coaching services.” According to the auditors, Lumbard deliberately circumvented state regulations in hiring this company that he’d previously had dealings with through WFM. After reviewing the services provided by Character Genetics, the auditors concluded “the benefit to the taxpayers is not clear.”

The report also documents questionable purchases by Lumbard, from four Google Home units apparently used in Lumbard’s home, to two semi-trailers equipped with video equipment that Lumbard had delivered to the Marion address for WFM Missions Base, which, as the report notes, is also Lumbard’s home address. Lumbard later directed the video equipment be sold, but did not follow state regulations. The equipment was sold on eBay by a vendor the report says is “associated with” Lumbard, and the $2,319 generated by the sale was not deposited in ICN’s bank account.

Auditors also concluded more than $10,000 in travel expenses approved by Lumbard were improper.

The auditor’s office sent copies of its report to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Polk County Attorney’s Office and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office for possible further action.

Little Village reached out to Lumbard and WFM Missions Base via email for comment, but has not yet received a reply.