CLOVERDALE, Ind. (AP) — The owner of a western Indiana ethanol plant is blaming its shut down on the Trump administration allowing some refineries to not blend ethanol with gasoline as required under federal law.
South Dakota-based ethanol producer POET says it will cease production by mid-October at its Cloverdale plant, one of four it operates in Indiana. A company notification says 50 workers will lose jobs from the closure.
The company says production is being cut at half of its 28 plants where corn is processed into ethanol. Poet says it’s consolidating jobs at plants in Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota and Missouri.
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued gasoline refinery exemptions removing 2.6 billion gallons of ethanol from production.
POET calls those exemptions “bailouts to oil companies.”
IOWA CITY (AP) — An Iowa agency granted professional licenses to more than 5,800 private security workers without conducting mandatory criminal background checks, including at least two dozen who had records that should have disqualified them, auditors said Thursday.
Ineligible applicants received licenses to work as private investigators, bail enforcement officers and security guards because an Iowa Department of Public Safety employee failed to ensure that they passed national background checks, as required, state auditors found.
Since the problems were discovered a year ago, the department has revoked about 25 licenses that were granted to people who had felony or aggravated misdemeanor convictions that should have disqualified them under Iowa law, Commissioner Stephan Bayens said.
Nearly 600 other current license holders still haven’t undergone FBI background checks, and the department is working to get those completed in coming months, he said at a news conference. Thousands of others were granted licenses without proper scrutiny but have since passed background checks.
State officials did not immediately release a list of those whose licenses had been revoked, but Bayens said the department was unaware of any violent crimes that stemmed from their employment.
State Auditor Rob Sand said his office’s investigation found lax oversight of security workers who hold positions of trust and work with law enforcement to ensure public safety.
“Those individuals were able to be employed despite no background check having been conducted,” he said.
Iowa law requires anyone who operates a private security business to obtain a license from the department, and their employees must apply for ID cards and carry them while on duty. To be eligible, applicants are required to be at least 18 years old, have no prior felony or aggravated misdemeanor convictions, and have no history of alcohol or drug abuse, mental illness or violence.
Applicants first face an Iowa-specific background investigation. If they pass, their fingerprints are sent to the FBI for a nationwide check.
Bayens said a department clerk responsible for issuing licenses, Joseph Sheehan Jr., conducted the Iowa background checks and rejected those who failed. But he then often failed to submit their fingerprints for the FBI check even though he indicated in some internal records that he had. Bayens said he didn’t want to speculate as to Sheehan’s motivation, but investigators have not found evidence that Sheehan received any improper financial benefit.
The audit found that 5,817 private security licenses were granted from July 2016 through August 2018 without the required national background check. It’s likely even more licenses were improperly granted in previous years but that investigators didn’t look farther back, according to the report.
Sheehan, who had worked full-time for the department since 2005, was fired last November for several policy violations. Two listed phone numbers for Sheehan, 60, had been disconnected.
The problems were exposed after a security guard with an extensive criminal history from other states applied for a gun permit in Linn County. A sheriff’s deputy told a state agent that the man should not have qualified for his security guard license, given his past.
The agent reported the concerns to the department’s Program Services Bureau, which oversees the security licenses and found discrepancies in how Sheehan handled the application. The department launched an investigation and Sheehan was placed on leave in August 2018. The department began completing national background checks on thousands of licensees and asked the auditor’s office to investigate.
The audit found that the department had failed to ensure that companies were promptly returning revoked licenses as required by Iowa code, which means that some ineligible workers may still be using them. The licenses also do not have an expiration date, which the department should consider changing, auditors said.
The findings of the criminal investigation have been turned over to Polk County Attorney John Sarcone’s office. Sarcone said the matter remains under investigation and no charges have been filed.
ROCK RAPIDS (AP) — Services are being held Monday for a northwest Iowa sheriff’s deputy who died after her patrol vehicle crashed.
A Mass is scheduled at 10 a.m. in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for Deputy Stephanie Schreurs, who died Tuesday. She was injured Aug. 9 when her vehicle ran off a road while entering a sharp curve in Lyon County. She was flown to a Sioux Falls hospital.
Burial is set at a cemetery in Alvord, Iowa.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has ordered all state flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Schreurs, a 24-year veteran of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department.
BETTENDORF (AP) — Police say a clerk died after being shot during a robbery at an eastern Iowa convenience store.
The robbery occurred around 5:40 p.m. Saturday at a Big 10 Mart in Bettendorf. The name of the 28-year-old woman who was shot hasn’t been released.
No arrests have been reported.
COUNCIL BLUFFS (AP) — A 16-year-old Nebraska boy has been sentenced to 10 to 50 years in prison for the slaying of a man in western Iowa.
Pottawattamie County District Court records say Xavier Smith-Catchings, of Omaha, was sentenced Thursday. He’d entered a written plea of guilty Wednesday to a charge of second-degree murder. Prosecutors lowered the charge in exchange for his plea. He and three men were charged with killing Adam Angeroth in January.
The judge had ruled that Smith-Catchings’ case remain in district court because it was unlikely he’d be rehabilitated in the juvenile system. He was 15 when Angeroth was stabbed and beaten to death.
Iowa residents Nicholas Haner, of Harlan; Ryan McDonald, of Glenwood; and Liam Stec, of Omaha, Nebraska, were sentenced earlier last week to 35-50 years. They all pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after prosecutors lowered the charges.
FRUITLAND (AP) — Authorities have released the names of two people who died in an eastern Iowa house fire.
The Quad-City Times reports that the Muscatine County medical examiner’s office has identified the two men as 45-year-old Graham Jared and his 21-year-old nephew, Ethan Jared. They both lived in the Fruitland home.
The fire broke out Wednesday morning. Authorities say the fire doesn’t appear to have been intentionally set.
By ELANA SCHOR
and JOSH FUNK
SIOUX CITY — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren offered a public apology Monday to Native Americans over her past claim to tribal heritage, directly tackling an area that’s proved to be a big political liability.
“Like anyone who has been honest with themselves, I know I have made mistakes,” the Massachusetts senator said at a forum on Native American issues in this pivotal early-voting state. “I am sorry for the harm I have caused.”
Monday’s remarks were an effort to move past the fallout from her past claims of tribal ancestry, which culminated in a widely criticized release of a DNA analysis last year. The issue nearly derailed her campaign in the early days as President Donald Trump began derisively referring to her as “Pocahontas.”
Now that Warren is gaining in most polls, she’s trying to prove to voters that the controversy won’t doom her in a general election matchup against Trump. The detailed policy agenda to help Native Americans that she released last week helped her secure a warm reception from attendees at the tribal forum.
After drawing a standing ovation, Warren said, “I have listened and I have learned a lot” from conversations with Native Americans in recent months, describing herself as “grateful” for the dialogue. She fielded questions about her proposals, which include a legislative change for a Supreme Court ruling that impedes tribal governments’ ability to prosecute crimes committed on tribal lands by those who don’t belong to a tribe.
She did not receive any questions about her own background.
Warren’s DNA analysis showed evidence of a tribal ancestor as far as 10 generations back, part of a broader pushback against Trump’s disparaging nickname, but the Cherokee Nation joined some other Native Americans in rebuking the senator for attributing tribal membership to genetics. Warren later apologized privately to the Cherokee and had addressed her regret before Monday’s appearance.
The Native American forum this week is expected to draw 10 of her White House rivals.
New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, who last year became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, introduced Warren on Monday after endorsing her presidential campaign last month and aligning with her for new legislation aimed at helping tribal communities. Haaland lamented that Warren’s ancestry has attracted outsized attention when Trump faces his own charges of racism.
Those who “ask about Elizabeth’s family instead of issues of vital importance to Indian Country,” Haaland told the forum audience, “feed the president’s racism.”
Manny Iron Hawk, 62, who lives on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in South Dakota, said Warren “did excellent” in her Monday appearance and has done a good job of addressing her past mistakes. “I think she did. A person has to admit their mistakes and move on.”
WEST DES MOINES (AP) — An Iowa-based grocery store chain is warning customers about what it says is a security incident involving payment card systems.
Hy-Vee said in a news release Wednesday that it launched an investigation after it detected unauthorized activity on some of its payment processing systems — activity that the company thinks has stopped.
The investigation focused on card payments at Hy-vee restaurants, fuel pumps and drive-thru coffee shops. Company officials think the problem doesn’t involve payments systems used inside its grocery stores, drugstores and convenience stores. They use encryption technology for processing card transactions.
Hy-vee intends to notify customers when it can share specific timeframes and locations that may have been involved.
The company is based in West Des Moines and operates more than 240 retail stores in eight Midwestern states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
DES MOINES (AP) — Six Iowa casinos began accepting bets on sporting events Thursday, making the state the 11th in the nation and first in the Midwest to allow such wagering.
Casinos in Altoona, Bettendorf, Osceola and Waterloo offered betting on-site and through a mobile app, while casinos in Burlington and Council Bluffs offered on-site betting only until their mobile systems are set up, said Brian Ohorilko, the Iowa Racing and Gaming administrator.
Two more casinos were close to final approval and were expected to be authorized to take bets soon, Ohorilko said. Eventually most of the state’s 19 state-regulated casinos are expected to offer sports betting.
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a measure in May that allowed sports betting, beginning at noon Thursday. It requires players to first travel to a casino to prove their age and identity and set up an account.
Iowa is the only Midwestern state with legalized sports betting. Indiana is set to start next month, and Illinois has approved it but could be several months away from startup because rules are still being drafted.
That means sports betting enthusiasts are likely to travel to Iowa casinos from adjacent states to sign up and boost business for border casinos including Ameristar in Council Bluffs, where General Manager Paul Czak expects players from Nebraska and Missouri.
Czak expects a significant number of Nebraska Cornhuskers fans to cross the Missouri River and place bets.
“When I looked yesterday Nebraska was 3-to-1 odds to win their half of the Big 10, 12-to-1 to win the Big 10 and 66-to-1 to win the national championship,” he said. “So I would guess there will be a lot of futures bets being placed tonight and this weekend for those kinds of things.”
Iowa’s law requires mobile betting to be done within the borders of the state. Betting software includes precision geofencing technology that nullifies bets made outside of Iowa.
Sports betting is limited to those 21 and older, and the state will collect a 6.75% tax on net receipts. Taxes and licensing fees are estimated to bring in estimated annual revenue of $2.3 million to $4 million annually.
First-day bets could be placed on several sporting events including upcoming Major League Baseball games, National Football League preseason contests or college games.
Betting in Iowa is allowed on professional, collegiate and international sporting events. Iowa also has legalized fantasy sports contests and internet fantasy sports betting.
At Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona a ceremonial ribbon cutting marked the opening of sports betting in the state. The first bets were placed by state Sen. Jack Whitver, a Republican, who chose the Iowa State Cyclones to beat the Iowa Hawkeyes at their Sept. 14 football game in Ames.
COUNCIL BLUFFS (AP) — Bond has been set at $2.2 million for a 44-year-old woman charged in the shooting deaths of two Iowa men.
The Daily Nonpareil reports that a judge set bond for April Montello-Roberts, of Shenandoah, on Friday. She is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, burglary, robbery and two counts of attempted murder of an officer.
Prosecutors say Montello-Roberts was in cahoots with her boyfriend, 28-year-old Troy Petersen, of Essex, in the robbery and killing of 52-year-old Jerrot Clark on Sunday. Police say days later, they fled when a Council Bluffs officer tried to pull over their truck, then randomly approached 51-year-old Steven Carlson’s home with a plan to take a hostage to use as leverage to escape police. Officials say Petersen instead shot and killed Carlson. Authorities say the pair later crashed their truck fleeing from police, and Petersen was shot dead by an officer.