Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cirrus SR22, N176CF: Names of donors, athletes released on Iowa Statue University private plane




Iowa Statue University officials released flight records identifying 126 passengers whom the university previously had kept secret after President Steven Leath made a "hard landing" that damaged the university's Cirrus SR22 single-engine aircraft.

The 670 pages of documents made public in response to a complaint filed by The Des Moines Register show that the 72 flights identified in the records cost the university or its foundation at least $804,000.

The passengers include dozens of well-known donors and athletes, as well as people whose ties to the university already have been publicly scrutinized, such as professional archer John Dudley.

Dudley, an Indianola native, accompanied Leath on four trips that may have mixed university business with hunting, according to records and a previous investigation published by the Associated Press show. That included trips to Sulphur Springs, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; and Louisville, Ky.

Leath has denied that Dudley hunted on those trips, describing the bow hunter's role in a recent interview with the Business Record as "to help Iowa State move forward."

Ames Realtor and ISU alumnus Dean Hunziker was the most frequent passenger, going on at least 10 flights, including some the Associated Press said were hunting-related. Hunziker did not return a call seeking comment.

The DCI last month announced it would not charge Leath over allegations he used school airplanes for personal benefit, determining "there was no probable cause to substantiate a violation of Iowa law."

Gene Meyer, the former West Des Moines mayor and former director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, was on one of the flights to Stillwater, Fla. He traveled with ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard to see a game in 2014, leaving and returning to Iowa on the same day.

Meyer, who is now president of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, is an ISU alumnus. Such trips help build relationships between donors and the university, he said. In 2015 the university's athletics department named Meyer "Cy's Favorite Alum for 2015."

"I'm just a big supporter of Iowa State athletics and the foundation, and I'm a donor. Jamie invited me to join him, and I accepted," Meyer said.

The Register reached out last week to others on the list, including Dan Culhane, the Ames Chamber of Commerce president, and Troy Ross, the executive administrator of Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in Muscatine.

Culhane and his wife, Stacey, traveled with Pollard to Toledo, Ohio, on Sept. 19, 2015, the same date as the Glass Bowl between ISU and Toledo. Culhane did not immediately return a request for an interview. Their travel cost the university or its foundation $1,265, the records show.

Ross, whose charity is recognized as one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the state, said the travel between Muscatine and Ames was to attend meetings. The trust has provided tens of millions of dollars in grants to ISU in a relationship that has spanned more than 25 years.

The travel for Ross and some of his staff in 2014-16 cost the university or its foundation at least $7,160, records show.

"That's an offer that's provided by the ISU Foundation for those meetings that we attend at Iowa State on campus," Ross said.

The Associated Press previously had made public some of the donor names using flight billing records that had been online and removed by ISU shortly after questions were publicly raised about Leath's use of the aircraft.

Leath last year said the unredacted billing records enabled the AP to identify who he was meeting, contact that person and ask "totally inappropriate" questions about donations raised as a result. The AP has said the questions were about the purpose of the trip rather than about donations.

ISU's athletics department is the primary user of its flight service, often during the student-athlete recruitment process and athletic events, the school has said.

NCAA rules allow schools to provide travel expenses to student-athletes to their athletic competitions. And the rules specifically allow colleges to use their own planes to transport prospective athletes to campus for a visit or sites of competition.

One of the names initially redacted from ISU records was ISU cross country runner Thomas Pollard, the son of Jamie Pollard, the school's athletics director.

Thomas and Jamie Pollard accompanied ISU's former cross country and track coach Bill Bergan and former ISU runner Brett Carney to Lawrence, Kan.; then to Sioux Falls, S.D., before returning to Ames, the records show.

ISU had not provided a reason for the trip before publication.

Records were previously online

Before Leath's use of planes faced public scrutiny, flight records were available on the school's website. They were taken down in October after the Associated Press investigation unveiled Leath, a pilot, had damaged one of the university aircraft during a hard landing.

Weeks later the school reposted the records with the identities of many of the passengers removed. Those passengers were students or potential donors, and the university maintained it could choose to make them confidential under Iowa's public records law.

The Register argued the redactions were illegal in a complaint before the Iowa Public Information Board. The documents fit the definitions of neither student educational records nor donor records, which could be concealed under the state's open records law, the paper argued.

The Register had downloaded 78 pages of the records before the university removed them from its website.

The university provided the records in an unredacted format earlier this month to resolve the complaint. ISU attorney Michael Norton said the school decided to release the records since the Register already had the information, although the newspaper did not have the entire record.

Dudley, the bow hunter, helped facilitate meetings with prospective donors and assisted with a wildlife program at the university, Megan Landolt, a spokeswoman for Iowa State, told the Register.

The "purpose" of the flights were all classified as business by the university.

The Register matched travel dates and destination cities with several sporting events but could not determine an official reason for dozens of the trips.

There is little way for taxpayers to judge the value of the trips without basic information about the travel, said Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and the Register's former opinion editor.

"It sure seems in the eyes of Iowa State University that every person who walks the Earth or flies on a plane with the university president is in theory a prospective donor," Evans said.

Leath pays nearly $37,000

The records obtained by the Register are for one of the four planes — a Beechcraft King Air 350 — the university has owned since 2012.

The university's flight service did not retain flight records or maintenance logs for two of the aircraft that have been sold. And flight records for the fourth — a smaller plane often flown by Leath — had not previously been maintained, although some information was available through a flight tracking data company, according to an ISU internal audit released in December.

Donor relations and outreach are considered a business purpose and an acceptable use of the aircraft under university policies. However, because of incomplete records, the business purpose could not always be verified by auditors, who reviewed the university's aircraft travel since 2012.

That audit found seven trips where the ISU Foundation did not have any records. Four were identified as sporting events considered allowable for Leath to attend as a business purpose regardless of meetings with donors. But three could not be validated, the internal audit shows.

The audit identified a March 2014 aircraft stop in Elmira, N.Y., en route to a basketball tournament as unnecessary. The stop was made to drop off Leath's brother and sister-in-law.

University aircraft also transported Leath at least seven times to Rochester, Minn. Leath said the sole purpose of three of those trips was a medical appointment. Leath's contract does not address the necessity of a required annual physical or whether associated travel is covered by the university, the audit noted.

Leath paid $17,500 in donations to the ISU Foundation to cover the damage to the plane that resulted from the 2015 hard landing while he was the pilot. Following the audit's review of his trips, he paid another $19,113.

The audit recommended the university maintain comprehensive flight logs in the future, which the university has agreed to do. The Iowa Board of Regents, which ordered the review, did not take action against Leath following the December audit. Regents President Bruce Rastetter said no ISU policies or laws were broken.

"President Leath's acknowledgment that he takes full responsibility for the issues identified in the audit and that he should have been more transparent about the use of the plane reassures this board — and I hope all Iowans — that the president deserves our continued trust and support," Rastetter said in December.

Read more here:   http://www.desmoinesregister.com

No comments: