State auditor and Board of Regents looking more deeply into ISU airplane use

Iowa State University President Steven Leath continues to insist his use of university aircraft violated no policies or laws.

We’ll learn more in the coming months, because the State Auditor’s Office is looking into the matter, and yesterday the Iowa Board of Regents approved a plan to audit every ISU Flight Service flight since Leath was hired in 2012.

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Lawsuit claims secret Harreld meetings violated Iowa law

A retired University of Iowa employee has filed suit to nullify last year’s hiring of University President Bruce Harreld, on the grounds that five members of the Iowa Board of Regents violated the state’s open meetings law, Ryan Foley reported yesterday for the Associated Press.

I enclose below more background on the case as well as the full text of the plaintiff’s court filing.

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Iowa Board of Regents news: Branstad appoints new members, Rastetter elected president

Governor Terry Branstad appointed two new members of the Iowa Board of Regents yesterday. Former State Senator Larry McKibben and construction business owner Milt Dakovic will fill vacancies created when the Iowa Senate did not confirm two of the governor’s three Regents appointees this year: Craig Lang and Robert Cramer. Branstad likes to appoint former state lawmakers to boards and commissions. He encouraged McKibben to come out of retirement to run for the Iowa Senate again in 2012, but McKibben lost the GOP primary in Senate district 36. I’ve posted more background on McKibben and Dakovich after the jump. Their appointments are subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate during the 2014 legislative session.

Lang recently finished six years of service on the Board of Regents and had been board president. Today the remaining board members chose Bruce Rastetter as the new board president. Rastetter has served as president pro-tem since the summer of 2011 and has been in frequent communication with the three state university presidents. The largest donor to Branstad’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign has also been a controversial figure as a Regent, having “blurred the line” between “his role as investor in AgriSol Energy” and his position on the board. (The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissed an ethics complaint filed against Rastetter over that proposed AgriSol land deal.) Earlier this year, Rastetter asked the University of Iowa president to arrange a meeting between ethanol industry representatives and Professor Jerald Schnoor. Democrat and Linn-Mar school district superintendent Katie Mulholland will replace Rastetter as president pro-tem of the Board of Regents.

UPDATE: Democratic State Senator Jeff Danielson has already announced that he supports Branstad’s new nominees for the Board of Regents. Earlier this year, he voted against confirming Lang and Cramer.

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Catch-up thread on Branstad appointments

Governor Terry Branstad announced some important personnel decisions in the past few days, naming former State Representative Libby Jacobs to chair the Iowa Utilities Board and three new members of the Board of Regents, including Bruce Rastetter.

Follow me after the jump for more on those and other Branstad administration appointments.

UPDATE: On March 1 President Barack Obama named Branstad to co-chair the Council of Governors, “established by the National Defense Authorization Act in 2008 to strengthen further partnership between the Federal and State governments as it pertains to national security.” Branstad will serve a two-year term as co-chair.

SECOND UPDATE: Branstad announced more than 200 appointments to state boards and commissions on March 2. Bleeding Heartland covered the four appointees to the Environmental Protection Commission here; all have ties to large agribusiness.

Another name that caught my eye was Eric Goranson, a lobbyist and parochial schools advocate whom Branstad named to the State Board of Education. He has been a leading critic of the Iowa Core Curriculum (see here and here). The Under the Golden Dome Blog argues that Goranson’s appointment may violate Iowa code, which states, “A voting member [of the Board of Education] shall not be engaged in professional education for a major portion of the member’s time nor shall the member derive a major portion of income from any business or activity connected with education.” Several of Goranson’s lobbying clients represent religious private schools or Christian home-schooling parents.

THIRD UPDATE: I forgot to mention Branstad’s two appointees to the State Judicial Nominating Commission: Helen St. Clair of Melrose and William Gustoff of Des Moines. I have been unable to find any information about Helen St. Clair, but a Maurice St. Clair of Melrose was among Branstad’s top 20 individual donors, contributing more than $45,000 to the gubernatorial campaign. I assume he is related to Helen St. Clair and will update this post if I confirm that. William Gustoff is a founding partner of the Whitaker Hagenow law firm, which includes Republican former U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker and State Representative Chris Hagenow. Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley also worked at Whitaker Hagenow last year.

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