At issue in this appeal is the Department's denial of BGCCV's application for a new application for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant ("21st Century Grant") after the competitive grant process. In September of 2015 a Request for Application ("RFA") for the 21st Century Grant was available on the Iowa Department of Education's Website and an information letter was issued. The purpose of the grant is to provide opportunities for communities to establish or expand activities in community learning centers that provide enrichment, offer additional services to families, and provide opportunities for educational development. In September and December of 2015 grant technical assistance meetings were held across the state to provide aid to the development of grant applications. During those meetings Mr. Jaras provided information to applicants that there would be no more continuation grants under the new RFA because grantees were under the impression that they were receiving a ten year grant when, in fact, the grant cycle is a five year cycle. Previous grantees were asked to provide a new application with new evidence and support for their applications.
In the spring of 2015, Mr. Rowe reached out to Mr. Jaras and asked him how to apply for a continuation of the original grant. Mr. Jaras advised him not to apply for a continuation of the grant and to make a new application. Mr. Rowe testified he felt like Mr. Jaras was pushing his own agenda on him and encouraging them to apply for a new grant and not a continuation grant like they requested. Mr. Rowe had several conversations with Mr. Jaras about applying for a new grant instead of a continuation grant. Mr. Rowe admitted the application they submitted was essentially a carbon copy of the same application they had submitted in previous years with a few minor adjustments.
On March 24, 2016, BGCCV received a letter notifying them that their grant application had been denied. BGCCV argued at the hearing that Mr. Jaras should not have provided them his own personal advice during the grant process and to do so was a conflict of interest under the law rendering the decision unfair.
At the hearing, Mr. Jaras testified that he had received no benefit from any applicant. Nor did his family receive any benefit from any applicant. There is no evidence that Mr. Jaras received any financial gain during this process. Furthermore, BGCCV provided no evidence to the contrary. We will not construe the conflicts statute to include an employee's own personal agenda as Mr. Rowe suggests. Nor do we believe that Mr. Jaras was serving a personal agenda here. Mr. Jaras testified that a goal of the grant is to serve as many students as possible. Therefore, he encouraged applicants to do so.
Furthermore, Mr. Jaras advised all grant applicants that continuation grants would no longer be approved during technical assistance meetings. Mr. Rowe was given the same information as all other applicants. We fail to see how this advice only adversely affected Mr. Rowe's application. Thus, we find no evidence presented at the hearing that showed Mr. Jaras has a conflict of interest as defined in the statute.
We find no conflict of interest has occurred as required under the rule. BGCCV's appeal of the denial of its grant application is therefore denied. BGCCV is encouraged to re-apply for funding at the next opportunity.