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.
The Des Moines Register asked the foundations for a list of such purchases after officials confirmed last week that the ISU Foundation bought a $2.4 million aircraft — a Beechcraft King Air — in 2014 and gifted it to ISU. That same year, the university spent $470,000, after trading in an older aircraft, to purchase a Cirrus SR22.
Officials with the Iowa Board of Regents said that because the $2.4 million plane was bought by the foundation, the purchase was not subject to a policy that requires universities to seek board approval for equipment purchases of more than $1 million.
"The Board of Regents does not approve any purchase made by foundations, and gifts of equipment from foundations do not require board approval," Josh Lehman, a spokesman for the board, said via email Thursday.
The process used to purchase the plane has raised questions with some lawmakers.
“There isn’t anybody in Iowa who would think it was OK for the foundation to purchase that plane outside of the university’s operating budget,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls. “So why would they even do it?”
Foundations at the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa have not gifted any equipment worth $1 million or more to either university in the last five years, the universities said.
ISU officials have not responded to questions asking if the ISU Foundation made other $1 million-plus purchases during the same period of time.
Both aircraft, which are used in ISU's Flight Service, were acquired using unrestricted private funds managed by the ISU Foundation, ISU officials said.
“The foundation purchased the King Air and gifted it to the university,” according to a university statement issued Sept. 23. “The university purchased the Cirrus SR22. No taxpayer money was used to acquire either aircraft.”
Lehman said the board’s executive director, Bob Donley, was informed via telephone about the purchase of the two aircraft to replace older aircraft for ISU’s Flight Service. Donley notified board leadership of the university's intent to purchase the planes to replace the older aircraft.
For universities, however, regent policy at the time required that any equipment costing more than $1 million must be submitted to the full board for approval.
The policy also specified that the request for approval include the following information:
Description of the equipment.
Justification of the need for the equipment.
Any known alternatives to the equipment proposed.
Estimated cost and source of funding.
No such request can be found among the meeting agenda items for 2014 on the regents’ website.
Former regents Hannah Walsh and Bob Downer, who were both on the board throughout 2014, told the Press-Citizen that they don't recall any matter involving ISU Flight Service coming before the board that year.
Questions raised recently by state lawmakers suggest that the $2.4 million purchase of the plane might have faced opposition had it been discussed in an open regents meeting.
“My first question beyond the issue of safety is why does a university need to buy a plane at all?” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames. “My second question: How did they acquire it? … The university foundation basically needs to be subject to the same purchasing requirements as the university.”
Questions about the 2014 purchase of the planes came to light after university officials confirmed last week that Leath, who has a pilot’s license, caused $12,000 worth of damage to one of the university airplanes when trying to land last year in Bloomington, Ill.
Leath made a $15,000 donation to the ISU Foundation on Monday, university officials said, to cover the cost of repairing the damage and the subsequent storing of the plane for several weeks. He also said he no longer will pilot any state-owned aircraft.
Bruce Rastetter, regents president, said he knew about Leath's hard landing and was aware he was licensed to operate ISU's smaller plane.
Regents officials said no board policies or state laws were violated in the purchase of the aircraft or in Leath's use of the aircraft.
The regents' policy manual was changed earlier this year to require universities to notify the board's chief operating officer of any purchase between $1 million and $2 million. For equipment costing more than $2 million, the purchase may be submitted to the board for approval but at the discretion of the COO.
The policy requires the COO to provide a summary of all equipment purchases of $1 million or more to the board on a quarterly basis.
Neither UNI nor UI has university-owned planes available for use by their presidents. UI officials said the university owns three planes and a helicopter, but all are used solely for sponsored research at the Operator Performance Laboratory within the UI College of Engineering.
Travel records provided by the universities show former UNI President Bill Ruud traveled by commercial airline while on university business. The records show UI President Bruce Harreld traveled primarily by commercial airline, except for three chartered flights for which he covered the expenses.
The costly incident happened 14 months ago.
AMES, Iowa —An Iowa State University airplane was out of state far longer than the school has acknowledged after it was damaged by President Steven Leath last year.
A record obtained by The Associated Press shows the plane didn't fly back to Iowa until 10 weeks after Leath's rough landing at the Bloomington, Illinois airport.
A university spokesman said this week the plane was stored in Illinois for three to four weeks after the July 14, 2015 incident. But the record shows it didn't return to Iowa until Sept. 23, when it was flown to Pella for repairs.
The school says repairs and storage cost $13,691. Leath made a $15,000 donation to cover those costs and vowed to stop piloting university aircraft.
The accident came as Leath returned from an 11-day vacation.