By ISD Editorial Board
Iowa State President Steven Leath said in a letter Monday, "to allay any future concerns, I will no longer fly any state-owned aircraft," but said his past use did not break any school rules or law. The statement came after a story emerged showing that Leath damaged a plane owned by the school while flying in July 2015 from an 11-day trip to North Carolina for both personal and university business.
The school said Friday that Leath encountered weather-related flight troubles while he was flying, and had a hard landing at the Bloomington, Illinois airport. Leath has reimbursed the university, however, the ISD editorial board still questions whether the trip violated policy.
Section 721.2 of the Iowa Code "prohibits any state employee from using, or permitting any other person to use, property owned by the state or any subdivision or agency of the state for any private purpose or for personal gain to the detriment of the state. Violation of this statute is a serious misdemeanor," Iowa State lists on its policy website.
Michael Norton, university counsel, told the Daily that those using the plane pay costs related to personal expenses and the university would pay for business-related expenses, and said Leath paying for both puts him in compliance and beyond the policy. "Because Leath’s use of flight services was for the benefit of ISU and not to its detriment, section 721.2 is not implicated," Norton said.
However, in an interview with the AP, Warren Madden, the senior vice president who oversaw the flight program at the time, said personal use of university planes would be prohibited by the policy and that he was unaware of any personal use instances.
According to the AP, “Madden also insisted the school would never let Leath ‘fly by himself one of our planes because of the insurance and liability issues’ before AP informed him Leath had done that.”
We believe that Leath’s flying of the planes was more for efficiency when navigating his tight travel schedule as he says it was. Yet, the insurance and liability issues he underwent raise concerns about whether he should have been flying the plane in the first place. Patrick Smith, an expert pilot who reviewed the incident, told the AP that the incident looked like "another pretty clear-cut example of a comparatively inexperienced pilot messing up."
Leath said he was transparent in communicating about the hard landing and damages that ensued with the FAA, the Board of Regents, University Risk Management and University Counsel, but the situation still raises questions about transparency with the public. Because Madden, supervisor of the flight program, was not aware of the situation we feel more steps should be taken to communicate about funding associated with private use of a public good and any damages that may occur because of those uses.
While the original funds used to pay for the flights and damages were not from tuition or state appropriations, the ISU community still has the right to know when university funds are being used to pay for damages to a hard landing and any flights that are questionably in compliance with state code or the university’s insurance and liability policies.
We applaud Leath for reimbursing his travels, but we hope the incident will be an example for he and other public officials to be more upfront with transparency about mistakes or questionable decisions.
By Steven Leath, President, Iowa State University
In response to continuing questions about my use of Iowa State University owned aircraft, I wanted to provide additional information and respond to inaccurate allegations that suggest I may have violated university policy and/or state law.
I worked with Iowa State University Flight Service and the Offices of University Counsel and University Risk Management in October 2014 to explore my use of the university’s Cirrus SR22 aircraft. I maintain an extremely busy, complex schedule that often requires travel across the state and country. Given the challenges and expense of commercial air travel, I believed my ability to fly this plane as an FAA certified pilot would allow for more efficiency and flexibility as well as a more cost-effective travel option.
The Offices of University Risk Management and University Counsel determined that my piloting of the Cirrus was allowed under Iowa State’s applicable insurance policies. The Office of University Counsel also looked at issues pertaining to me reimbursing the university for portions of my travel in this aircraft. To suggest that my piloting and use of the Cirrus SR22 aircraft was not known by Board of Regents leadership and university senior business administration is inaccurate.
Iowa State’s travel policy contemplates situations where travel on university business is combined with personal travel. In those instances, according to university policy, expenses related to the business portion of the travel are paid for by Iowa State and expenses related to the personal portion are paid for by the employee. The four trips where I reimbursed Iowa State for personal use of the Cirrus aircraft each had a business component to them. Rather than try to allocate the flight expenses between the personal and business travel, I simply reimbursed the university for the full amount. This practice was above and beyond what is required by Iowa State policy.
I believe that an important part of my job is to be a champion for Iowa State University and to create, foster and enhance relationships between the university and its alumni, partners, friends and benefactors. My work in partnership with the Iowa State University Foundation to generate additional resources for scholarships, faculty positions, capital improvements, etc. is vital to our university’s continued growth and success. This requires frequent travel on behalf of Iowa State across Iowa, the country, and even at times, the world. Janet and I also maintain a cabin in the North Carolina mountains, which we have opened up to host existing donors and to foster new relationships with prospective supporters to the benefit of Iowa State.
With respect to the hard landing incident, there was no attempt to hide this event from anyone. When it happened, I immediately notified the airport tower and ISU Flight Service and subsequently the FAA. I later notified Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. I believe this incident would have been covered by university insurance; however, for business reasons, the claim was not submitted and the cost of the repairs was covered by non-general use funds.
In an effort to move forward in a positive way, Janet and I have decided to make a donation to the ISU Foundation in an amount equal to all of the cost associated with this incident, including the repair and storage costs of the Cirrus. This will be put toward the university’s scholarship fund. Additionally, to allay any future concerns, I will no longer fly any state-owned aircraft.
IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY: http://registry.faa.gov/N176CF
This undated photo provided by the Bloomington Normal Airport Authority shows a damaged wing of a Cirrus SR22 single engine plane at the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Ill. Iowa State University President Steven Leath caused "substantial damage" to the university airplane he was piloting when it made a hard landing at the Illinois airport last year — a costly incident kept quiet for 14 months.
AMES, Iowa – The president of Iowa State University said Monday that he will no longer pilot a university airplane that he has used for trips that have mixed business and personal affairs.
President Steven Leath also said he and his wife will make a donation to the university's scholarship fund in the amount of costs associated with an accident in the Cirrus SR22 single-engine plane in July 2015. The university has said it paid $12,000 in repairs, in addition to costs to store the plane for weeks after the incident. The university said Leath wrote a check Monday for $15,000.
The moves come after The Associated Press reported Saturday that Leath suffered a hard landing in the plane in July 2015, on his way home from an 11-day trip to North Carolina, where his family owns a mountain cabin and Christmas tree farm business. The university has said Leath met with a potential donor in North Carolina and had personal business during the trip.
Leath said he reimbursed Iowa State for the cost of that flight as well as three other trips in the plane to North Carolina that included personal business. He has paid the school back at a rate of $125 per hour, which is well below the market rate for renting similar aircraft.
Leath said Monday that his reimbursements went "above and beyond what is required by Iowa State" policy because they covered the entire cost of the flights, not just the portion pertaining to personal business.
He also said the arrangement did not violate a state law that bars public officials from using state equipment or property "for any private purpose or for personal gain to the detriment of the state."
Leath said he believed that flying himself would allow for more flexibility in his busy schedule. He said his use of the plane was approved by the school's office of risk management and university counsel, who determined it would be allowed under Iowa State insurance policies.
He also said the university's senior leaders were aware he was flying himself. That contradicts a claim last week by recently retired senior vice president Warren Madden, who said any personal use of the aircraft was outlawed by school policy and that Leath would not be allowed to fly himself for safety and liability reasons. The school employs three professional pilots.
Leath has flown for about 10 years but earned his instrument rating for the Cirrus SR22 in January 2015 after receiving additional training. The university had purchased the aircraft at a cost of $498,000 months earlier, using private donations, university spokesman John McCarroll said Monday, adding that the school received a $28,000 credit for trading in an older plane.
The hard landing occurred when Leath was landing in Bloomington, Illinois, for a refueling stop. He has said gusty winds caused the plane's right wingtip to hit the ground, causing it to leave the runway. When the plane recovered, the left wing flap hit a runway light. An inspection found that both wings suffered "substantial damage." Leath and his wife, Janet, weren't injured.
Leath said he believed the accident would have been covered by insurance but the university didn't file a claim and paid for the costs itself for business reasons. Leath continued flying afterward, but he said Monday that he would stop doing so "to allay any future concerns."
State Sen. Rob Hogg, chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee, said he was pleased Leath was taking responsibility for the damage but that the lack of disclosure about the accident raised "significant concerns" about management of Iowa's three public universities.
University President Steven Leath gives his annual address within the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Sep. 14.
September 30, 2011: New Iowa State University president Steven Leath talks about family, love of flying
Minutes after Steven Leath was introduced as Iowa State University’s 15th president on Tuesday, he dined with a group of freshman students and outgoing President Gregory Geoffroy. “I left the press conference, and had dinner with students,” Leath told The Des Moines Register today. During the interview, Leath talked about his family, their Christmas tree farm and his new hobby of flying personal aircraft.
It has been a whirlwind week for Leath, who spent parts of three days on campus last week meeting students, faculty and administrators. Gov. Terry Branstad called Thursday to congratulate and welcome him to Iowa. His first of many phone conversations with Geoffroy is scheduled next week, he said. Leath said he will spend several days in Iowa each month before moving to Ames permanently sometime in January. He begins his job as ISU president on Feb. 1. Leath met his wife, Janet, while they were both students at the University of Delaware. Married for 30 years, they have two sons.
Leath earned his pilot license three years ago, and often flies to his family’s cabin and Christmas tree farm. Both are located in the mountains of North Carolina, near where his youngest son attends college at Appalachian State University. Leath’s oldest son works as an agriculture aid to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
Source: http://www.desmoinesregister.comIowa State President Steven Leath damaged a plane owned by the school while flying in July 2015 from an 11-day trip to North Carolina for both personal and university business, an Iowa State spokesperson confirmed Saturday.
The school said Friday that Leath "encountered a microburst, a localized downdraft within a thunderstorm" while he was flying, and "as a result, he experienced a hard landing at the Bloomington, Illinois airport."
John McCarroll, executive director of University Relations, said Saturday that the trip from July 3-14, 2015, was to North Carolina and "involved donor contacts [and] some personal business."
Due to a tight travel schedule, Leath used the school's single-engine Cirrus SR22 to travel, McCarroll said.
Leath holds FAA pilot certification for single-engine aircraft, according to the school. Leath has flown the single-engine plane several times, including for both personal and university purposes.
The hard landing in Illinois, which was to refuel the plane, caused about $12,000 in damage, which was paid for by the university using discretionary funds — money earned through university investments, not state appropriations or tuition, McCarroll said.
McCarroll said the school decided it was "best" to just pay for the damage instead of filing an insurance claim.
Leath reimbursed the school $1,100 in November, 2015 for his trip that resulted in damage. He also reimbursed the school for three other trips, all to North Carolina, in 2015 and 2016. In all, the four trips resulted in Leath paying the school $4,637.50.
March 25-29, 2015 trip: Leath reimbursed $1,212.50 (invoice sent April 7, Leath paid April 8.)
May 12-17, 2015 trip: Leath reimbursed $1,162.50 (invoice sent Sept. 23, Leath paid Nov. 19.)
July 3-14, 2015 trip: Leath reimbursed $1,100.00 (invoice sent Nov. 18, Leath paid Nov. 19.)
Aug. 26-30, 2016 trip: Leath reimbursed $1,162.50 (invoice sent Sept. 2, Leath paid Sept. 9.)
Leath and his wife own property in Ashe County, North Carolina and his family owns and manages a Christmas tree farm in the county. Prior to becoming president at Iowa State, Leath was vice president for research at the University of North Carolina.
"Keep in mind, none of the trips in question using the Cirrus SR22 were strictly for personal reasons; each of them had university business purposes," McCarroll said. "The president however felt that because some personal time was also involved, he should reimburse the university for the aircraft use."
Iowa State employs three trained pilots who fly two planes owned by the university, but Leath has flown himself for several trips. Along with the Cirrus SR22, Iowa State also owns a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air.
Leath said in a statement to the FAA that he "encountered an extremely strong gust that lifted me and I quickly added power but still dropped hard hitting the right wingtip" and his "left wing flap caught the top of a runway light," according to the Associated Press.
An airport inspection found "substantial damage to both wings," debris on the runway from the broken light and skid marks, according to the AP.
The trained university pilots were sent to pick up Leath and his wife, Janet, with the school's other airplane after the incident, McCarroll said.
The round trips to pick up Leath and his wife cost more than $2,200 and was paid for by the "Greater University Fund," according to the AP.
The AP reported that the university vice president who oversaw the school's flight program, which would have been Warren Madden, who is now retired, said he was never told about the incident.
Madden told the AP that university policy would bar Leath from personal use of university planes. He also said due to insurance and liability issues, Leath would never fly alone. The AP reporter informed Madden that Leath had flown alone.
McCarroll said he could not answer legal questions about if the trip would have violated rules, but added, "President Leath believes he has acted appropriately."
Iowa State lists a policy online to provide clarification regarding personal use and misuse of university property:
State law, specifically Section 721.2 of the Iowa Code, prohibits any state employee from using, or permitting any other person to use, property owned by the state or any subdivision or agency of the state for any private purpose or for personal gain to the detriment of the state. Violation of this statute is a serious misdemeanor.
While the university said the microburst caused the hard landing, the AP quoted experts that said "the incident appears to be a case of an inexperienced pilot making an error."
McCarroll said Friday he would not comment further about the experts interviewed by the AP, but noted that Leath has been flying for 10 years.
An original release, sent out by the school Friday afternoon, also included a summary of Iowa State's ongoing relationship with the City of Ames and the Iowa State University Flight Service.
Iowa State said they were releasing the information because of comments Leath made at his annual address on Sept. 14 about improvements to the Ames Municipal Airport. Iowa State is planning to cover $250,000 of the $4.15 million project, which includes a new terminal and hangar.
They also said several media inquiries and public records requests had been made. The AP published a story with more details Friday afternoon shortly after the release from Iowa State.
In addition to the release from Iowa State, Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter said in a statement he supports efforts by Iowa State to expand the airport.
"I fully support economic development efforts between our universities and their local communities," Rastetter said. "Partnerships such as the agreement between Iowa State University and the city of Ames on the continued development of the city’s airport are critical to help encourage growth."
Rastetter said he is aware of Leath flying the university-owned plane. Iowa State noted several times in their release that Board of Regents leadership was made aware of the effort to expand the Ames airport and the purchase of planes.
Iowa State also said Friday that the airplanes were not bought with taxpayer money. The Iowa State Foundation purchased a Beechcraft King Air and gifted it to the university. The Cirrus SR22, flown by Leath, was bought with unrestricted private funds managed by the ISU Foundation.