Iowa AG's office files charges over film office flap

Chris Rizo Feb. 9, 2010, 12:36am

Tom Miller (D)

DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller's office filed charges Monday against the former manager of the Iowa Film Office and others connected to the filming of a movie.

The firm office has been wracked with scandal and was closed down amid officials, including Miller, decrying abuses of the tax incentive program.

Charged on Monday were Tom Wheeler, who was fired in September as manager of the Iowa Film Office; Wendy Weiner Runge, executive producer of "The Scientist;" Matthias Alexander Saunders, photography director; and three limited liability corporations connected to the film.

Wheeler WAS charged with non-felonious misconduct in office. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,875.

As for the film's producers, officials allege that they significantly inflated the costs of the movie. For instance, they claimed to have spent $900 to rent an eight-foot step ladder for two weeks.

Wheeler had approved more than $1.8 million in state tax credits for the movie. Charges were filed in Polk County District Court.

Under the Iowa film program, filmmakers get a tax credit of up to 50 percent of what they spend to make a movie in Iowa. The program has paid about $32 million for 22 projects over the past three years.

In September, Miller was asked by Gov. Chet Culver to investigate the Iowa Department of Economic Development's Film, Television and Video Promotion Program

"This is not about harming the growing film and television industry in Iowa, but about protecting public funds and the best interest of Iowans," Culver said at the time in a statement. "I am very troubled by reports of the lack of oversight and accounting procedures of tax credits under this program."

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