A new threaded post on this topic can be found here. For previous posts about the Harreld hire, click the tag below.
11/10/16 — Iowa State President Steven Leath: Feudal Lord of Story County.
11/06/16 — ISU President Steven Leath: “I am open, honest and forthcoming.” (With bonus Harreld and UNI.)
11/01/16 — ISU President Steven Leath Is More Than a “Minor User” of the King Air 350.
10/30/16 — On Iowa State President Stephen Leath Having it Both Ways.
10/27/16 — Krapf vs. Iowa Board of Regents: Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.
10/25/16 — Steven Leath’s Use of the ISU King Air 350, Either Alone or With His Wife.
10/22/16 — An Unofficial Audit of the Iowa State Cirrus SR22 Flight Logs. Updated 10/23/16. Updated 10/24/16.
10/18/16 — Bruce Rastetter’s Serial Betrayals of the Iowa Board of Regents.
10/16/16 — Iowa State President Steven Leath: Honest Abe or Tricky Dick?
10/13/16 — The Middle of the End for ISU President Steven Leath — Part 2.
10/10/16 — The Middle of the End for ISU President Steven Leath — Part 1.
A little over two weeks ago, on 09/23/16, Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley broke a still-evolving story about Iowa State President Steven Leath damaging a school-owned airplane and demolishing a runway light during what Leath described as a hard landing at the Bloomington, Illinois airport, in July of 2015. On that occasion Leath and his wife were returning from an eleven-day vacation at their home in North Carolina, but in Foley’s original reporting neither Leath nor Iowa State offered any explanation as to why the president of the school was allowed to take $500K in state property on an extended personal trip, let alone why that accident — which occurred over a year ago this past summer, and could easily have injured or killed Leath or his wife — remained a closely guarded secret. In response to those perfectly reasonable queries, the vaunted Iowa State department of University Relations, under the leadership of Executive Director John McCarroll, began perpetrating lies in an attempt to get their beloved university president off the hook both for being a miserable pilot and an unethical if not criminal university president.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking we already knew that Leath was an unethical if not criminal university president because of his unethical if not criminal land deal with Regents President Bruce Rastetter, which was concluded early in 2016, but only reported by the Des Moines Register this summer. And of course you’re right. The idea that Leath may have previously used his taxpayer-funded position to personal benefit is so in keeping with the man’s already established conduct as to barely occasion a yawn. Still, if only for the sake of posterity it’s important to document the administrative atrocities at the Iowa Board of Regents, and so it is with Leath’s eleven-day, state-facilitated joyride to North Carolina, and subsequent accident in Illinois.
On 09/24/16 Foley published an update to the Leath crash, which included the following explanation for why taking off (pun intended) with state property for eleven days was perfectly okay and not at all the abuse of authority — if not violation of state law — that it clearly seemed to be:
So there you go. Because Leath planned to spend a few hours hobnobbing with a “potential donor”, he was perfectly justified in running off with state property for eleven straight days, even if someone else at ISU may have wanted to use that same state property for official ISU business while it was apparently gathering dust in North Carolina. (If you’ve been reading Ditchwalk you know that higher education in the state of Iowa is corrupt from top to bottom, and that Leath’s reported behavior in this instance is simply par for the crony course.)
During the two weeks since Foley’s initial report, the Leath plane accident has morphed into a much larger story about Leath’s serial abuses of power — if not violations of state law — at Iowa State’s Flight Service. Predictably, while the press went about trying to learn as much as possible about Leath’s unethical if not illegal activities, Leath and his corrupt administration resolved to say as little as possible — at least until a few days ago, when the weight of evidence compelled Leath to change course and go on the offensive in a big way, including attacking the press.
As noted on multiple occasions, I am not a reporter and I do not know anything about the craft of journalism. As noted on multiple other occasions, not only am I not qualified to be a university president, I have no practical experience as an administrator in any role, so I cannot explain why so many administrators involved in higher education in the state of Iowa also seem to be miserable human beings. What I can say — as a close observer for the past year of the crony corruption at the Iowa Board of Regents — is that disputes between the press and the miserable corrupt administrators at both the board and its university subsidiaries are never a fair fight.
The reason for that — regardless of the actual ethics of the individuals involved — should be self-evident. On one hand, members of the press, individually and collectively, necessarily reside outside the bureaucracy in question. Conversely, not only are administrators in the regents’ enterprise privy to inside information, including their own corrupt acts, they are protected by the entire taxpayer-funded crony apparatus of state government. From the corrupt governor who appointed the board to the political fixer presiding over the board, to the board officers, to the toady university presidents and the media machines functioning in orchestrated unison at every academic institution, there is literally no one whose job it is to actually the truth about anything.
Yes, if we imagine a gang of tabloid reporters acting like bloodthirsty piranha in response to a doe-eyed administrator suffering a tiny regulatory nick on the leg, things could get ugly. And yet, even in that instance the press will still be obligated to do the digging and make their case, allowing the bureaucracy that the adorable and completely harmless administrator works for to get on with the serious business of deciding whether to throw said administrator to the piranha immediately, or wait to do so when the media moment is more favorable. Alternatively, if we imagine that reporters are, generally, decent folk just doing their jobs, and that administrators can be, from time to time, truly miserable human beings, it should be clear that the very structure of such conflict favors the miserable administrators, who are not only insulated by their own lies, but by glad-handing, back-slapping, wink-and-a-nod peers who may have more than a little exposure to the press as well.
Ideally, of course, reporters wouldn’t even be necessary — because everyone would just be super honest and ethical, or, barring that, regulatory and legal forces would keep the sleaze at bay — but it remains true that when all else fails in our democracy the only recourse citizens have is the right of the free press to investigate and report on said sleaze. As a coincidental aside, we are currently living through a serious but instructive moment in American history, in which a nationalist, racist, misogynistic presidential candidate has been put forward by one of the two major parties. Were America not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, it is entirely possible that a great deal of what we now know about that candidate would never have been disclosed, which in turn gives real visibility to how tyrants like Hitler, Mussolini and others rose to power in the past.
In that context it should also be clear, however, that being a reporter — by which I now mean a hard-news reporter, and not a tabloid hack — carries with it a professional obligation to report the truth. Lie to the country from your anchor desk, and as Brian Williams found out you not only have to go away for a while, if you’re lucky enough to make it back you will still have to serve a protracted probation at your network cable affiliate. In fact, between reporters and government officials, or people in business, it seems pretty clear that not only is the burden of proof on the reporters, but no one actually expects government officials or people in business to tell the truth, regardless of their stated core values (p. 4).
In the case of the administrators at the Iowa Board of Regents, meaning, collectively, the members of the board, officers of the board, and officers at the state’s schools, it’s a given that the entire diseased bureaucracy will not only rise in defense of one of it own administrative pathogens, but that it will stop at nothing to discredit the press. Backed up against the wall as Leath is — by his own actions — it is not even surprising that the sitting president of a state university has not only gone on the attack against the press, but against Foley in particular:
If you’re not familiar with that bit of pith, Leath lifted it from Mark Twain, who seems to have lifted it from someone else, but okay — we’re not going to get into the whole attribution thing here. The question before us is whether ISU President Steven Leath is an honest man unjustly accused, or lying trash, and it is that question which the press is currently and appropriately pursuing. Except, as it turns out — and as we will spell out in this two-part post — the fact that Leath is a liar has already been proven by the press, twice, on two completely different points related to Iowa State’s flight ops. Each of those demonstrable lies, individually let alone collectively, in turn provides sufficient justification for terminating Leath’s employment as president of Iowa State University.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Steven Leath
In looking into the fraudulent Harreld hire over the past year, one of the great lessons of that conspiracy is that the most important administrative lies are often of a class that is hard to document. Specifically, there are lies of commission and lies of omission, and it was the later which Rastetter, Robillard and others excelled at while running the taxpayer-funded sham that led to J. Bruce Harreld’s illegitimate appointment.
Here is how I differentiated between those two types of lies in a prior post:
In Part 1 of this post we will document a lie of commission that ISU President Steven Leath not only told to the press, the people of Iowa and the ISU community, but a lie he has doubled down on to such a degree as to prompt additional questions about why that might be the case. In Part 2 we will document a lie of omission that Leath perpetrated against the Iowa Board of Regents, which in itself is in pretty damn funny given that the entire board is a lie of omission. The reason it is particularly important to identify lies of omission is that only by being aware of such lies can the press (or, alternatively, the authorities, if there are any in the state) ask the right questions. By definition, if you don’t know that something untoward took place, you can’t ask about that act — or non-act.
We previously documented the evolution of a lie of omission into a lie of commission regarding the secret regent meetings that Regents President Rastetter arranged for J. Bruce Harreld on 07/30/15, at Rastetter’s place of business in Ames. While those meetings may have constituted a violation of the state’s Open Meeting law — a point which is currently the subject of litigation — they also represented multiple lies of omission on the part of Rastetter, the other four regents who attended those meetings, and J. Bruce Harreld himself. Not only did those five board members not inform the other four members of the board that those meetings took place, but three of those board members were also on the search committee, yet no other candidates were apprised of the right to partake in such meetings. Finally, at no time prior to his appointment did Harreld himself publicly mention those meetings, including at his ninety-minute candidate forum, thus betraying complicity in the board members’ conspiracy of silence.
After Rastetter’s secret regent meetings were disclosed, however, the press was able to ask questions about the basis for those meetings, which in turn compelled Rastetter to transition his lies of omission into a lie of commission — meaning the assertion of something that was provably false. Specifically, in an interview with the Des Moines Register on 03/22/16, Rastetter asserted that any and all candidates for the UI presidency in 2015 could have availed themselves of such meetings if only they would have asked, which we know to be false for two reasons. First, because Rastetter and search chair Jean Robillard never communicated that right to any other candidate beside Harreld, and second, because the 2016 UNI search committee has not included that fantastical right in any of their official communications.
In truth, Bruce Rastetter rigged the 2015 UI presidential search in Harreld’s favor in a number of ways, including arranging improper meetings between Harreld and a sufficient number of regents to guarantee that Harreld would have a majority of the vote when the board convened to elect the next Iowa president. And yet, because of dogged inquiry by the press, after first lying by omission to everyone about those meetings Rastetter was eventually compelled to lie by commission in order to avoid admitting to his flagrant abuses of power.
With regard to the lies that ISU President Steven Leath is now telling, as we will see in the following section, Leath’s longstanding lie of omission about using a multi-million-dollar Iowa State airplane to ferry relatives to a basketball game in 2014 has already transitioned to a disprovable lie of commission, meaning the job of the press is effectively finished. In the next post we will also see that Leath’s lie of omission about his accident in 2015 can be disproved by Leath’s own words and actions, allowing the press to more effectively question Leath on that matter. Whether Leath chooses to then lie by commission in an attempt to remain in office, or to simply resign — assuming he has not already been driven from office by the weight of the lie we are about to dissect — it will be apparent that Leath stands to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds, at a minimum, that would not otherwise be due if he had not committed that lie of omission.
Steven Leath’s Lie of Commission
If you’ve been following Leath’s current troubles even distractedly, you have probably read an absurd assertion from Leath that has only grown more preposterous over the past few days. Here is that assertion, as first reported by Ryan Foley on 10/04/16, regarding Leath’s 2014 use of Iowa State’s twin-engined King Air 350, which Leath himself is not qualified to fly:
Now, even if you are an arch supporter of Steven Leath, you have to acknowledge that the above assertions by Iowa State are ridiculous on their face. The idea that Leath himself had nothing to do with stopping at Horseheads, NY, before and after the big game, specifically to pick up and drop off his relatives, is idiotic. So idiotic, in fact, that it calls into question why a presumably intelligent person would attempt to sell such a lie, but we’ll get to that later. For the moment, simply note that on Leath’s behalf, Iowa State University asserted that the pilots of Leath’s airplane “unilaterally” decided to stop and take on fuel, twice, at Horseheads, NY.
Among the many problems with that story are simple mathematical truths having to do with the performance specifications of the King Air 350. Specifically, that particular airplane is used all over the world because it is both relatively fast and has an exceedingly long range. While the distance from Ames, Iowa to NYC is 1,100 miles or so, or 956 nautical miles, the range of a fully fueled King Air 350 is 1,800 nm, or 2,071 miles. With one full load of fuel, then, Leath’s plane could have flown all the way to NYC and most of the way back before needing to refuel, even allowing for a safety margin.
To the extent that other circumstances may have mitigated that particular approach to fuel management — and as we will see, that is not in dispute — in no circumstance would Leath’s plane have required two fuel stops at Horseheads, NY, or anywhere else. Still, one concern about the passage above is that it does not contain any direct quotes from Leath himself. Instead, it seems to be the handiwork of the vaunted ISU Department of University Relations, which is the same august body which falsely asserted that Leath’s self-inflicted accident was the result of a “microburst” or “downdraft in a thunderstorm“. Fortunately, however, the very next day Leath himself addressed those assertions during an extensive interview with the ISU student newspaper, the Iowa State Daily (ISD). [Leath was joined in that interview by ISU Assistant to the President for Communications, Megan Lindolt.]
(I cannot commend the ISD staff highly enough not only for conducting a thorough interview, but for posting the entire transcript online. ISD’s conduct in this matter is yet another reminder that student newspapers are newspapers, not wanna-be papers. Despite being the putative president of a public university, no other news organization could have compelled Leath to give the interview he gave, whether to save his own neck or not. That’s not only a lesson for the students at ISU and the other state schools, but in the aftermath of the critical early reporting done by Mount St. Mary’s Mountain Echo, into their completely deranged president, it is a reminder that students themselves can be the arbiters of the ethics on their campus.)
From the ISD Leath transcript, on 10/05/16:
Okay, so first things first — yes, that is Steven Leath’s cringe-worthy narcissism on flagrant display when he says, “I wish they would never have gotten on that plane….” Not that he wishes he had not stopped there to pick them up, but that it’s their fault for forcing their way onto the plane when he just happened to stop at the local airport for safety’s sake. How could his relatives not see the compromising situation they were putting him in by demanding free transport to and from NYC, to join Leath at a game that they would have otherwise had no interest in attending themselves? But I digress….
Clearly we do now have Leath himself on the record, and just as ISU’s Department of University Relations said (and, yes, I laugh every time I type that title), the only reason Leath’s plane stopped anywhere near his thoughtless relatives was because his safety conscious pilots wanted to make sure the ISU King Air 350 — which has a fully-fueled range of approximately twice the distance from Ames to NYC — would not be stuck circling over Manhattan for six hours, until they were forced to declare an emergency, at which point they would be allowed to cut in line and land with no risk to anyone whatsoever. And then those very same careful pilots also informed Leath — much to his consternation, I’m sure — that they would also be stopping for fuel at the exact same airport on the way home, but not to drop of Leath’s incredibly pushy relatives. Instead, they would be stopping a second time just to make sure they had enough fuel to fly all the way back to Ames, what with the normal prevailing headwinds apparently cutting the King Air 350’s almost-fully-fueled range from 1,800 nautical miles to something less than the 1,200 or so required to fly from the first Horseheads stop to NYC and back to Ames.
So okay — that’s Leath’s story, and yes, he’s clearly sticking to it. Just as clearly, however, even a cursory look at the performance specifications of the King Air 350 proves that Leath’s statements are lies, but that’s only the tip of the ice berg. So let’s put on our snorkels and wetsuits and confront the full dimension of Leath’s frosty mendacity….
The premise of Leath’s claims about the Horseheads stops is that they were dictated first by safety, and second by fuel costs. On the safety front, at no point would the ISU King Air 350 have been at risk even if it had flown direct from Ames to NYC, in part because of the advantage conferred by the prevailing winds when flying in that direction. If flying east to west takes more fuel — and it does, but not as much as Leath implied — then flying west to east will take less fuel for the same reason, meaning Leath could even arrive in NYC with more than half a tank left.
In any event, it is not possible to plot a direct, non-stop, round-trip flight from Ames to NYC that requires two fuel stops for a King Air 350, and that’s true even if Leath’s plane got stacked up over New York on the in-bound leg. Had that happened, it’s possible the pilots would have decided to take on fuel at New York City despite the higher cost, or they would have simply landed sooner rather than later after leaving NYC in order to take on enough fuel for the return leg home. Still, under no circumstance would Leath’s plane need to fuel up twice during the trip, let alone twice at Horsheads, NY.
As to the idea that either Leath or the pilots were concerned about the cost of fuel in New York City — no, in no sense did concerns about fuel cost dictate one or both stops at Horseheads, NY. How do we know? Because littered throughout the reporting that began with Foley’s scoop on 09/23/16, we find example after example of ISU President Steven Leath pissing away money on his aeronautical toys. In fact, to truly understand how little concern Steven Leath has about the funds at his discretionary disposal, consider the aftermath of his accident at the Bloomington airport, one year and three months after Leath’s trip to NYC in the King Air.
Here’s how Leath described that accident in the ISD interview:
To being, notice that the two analogies Leath uses are not only disingenuous, they’re also stupid. If Leath can convert, by ratio, $12,000 in actual damage into $600 in fantasy automotive damage, then I can convert that same $12,000 into $2M in damage by equating his accident with running a cruise ship aground. More to the point, the cost to fix the Cirrus SR22 was $12K in real money, which is $11.4K more than his $600 analogy — or, roughly the same amount of money that someone on Social Security Disability lives on for an entire year.
As for the deer analogy, note that in an accident with a deer, it’s generally assumed that the deer was at least partially at fault. Unless Leath wants to claim that the Bloomington, Illinois runway suddenly leapt from behind a stand of trees, only to then freeze in his path, that analogy also fails. What Leath did was the equivalent of going for a joyride in a state-owned vehicle and running into someone’s house — which is precisely why the FAA took Leath by the scruff of his neck and compelled him to complete a check ride, thus demonstrating that he was not a menace to himself and others. (If you hit a deer, whether in a state vehicle or your own, nobody questions whether you know how to drive, except maybe the deer. If you damage a runway with your plane, the FAA is not only going to ask questions, they may yank your certification.)
It’s all so stupid that for a moment you wonder about the man’s faculties (intention of pun yet to be determined), until you realize that the whole point of just blathering away is not to say anything useful or illuminating, but to distract everyone from the fact that Leath almost killed himself and his wife while barnstorming around the country in a $500K airplane that does not belong to him. Or, maybe it’s to distract people because there’s so much more dirt. For example, I don’t think it has been definitively determined whether the Leaths used ISU’s Cirrus for other flights while on their eleven-day NC vacation. It’s assumed that they simply used the plane to fly there and back, meaning it sat idle for the other nine days, but I have not found that assertion in anything I have read. (Given that Leath claims to have only met with one “potential donor” at his home, any other flights in the Cirrus during that eleven-day span would clearly have been personal.)
Leaving aside the total cost of the accident damage to the plane, there are two other important things to note. First, Leath not only trivializes the total cost of repairs, he trivializes the importance of the repairs. It’s not that he wrecked the plane, it’s that he barely put a dent in it, and the only reason it cost so much to fix is that Iowa State insisted on OEM replacement parts instead of whatever wing flaps they have on sale at Wal-Mart.
Read Leath’s comments again and it’s clear that he saw the damage as little more than a scratch — maybe even something you could buff out with the right compound. And in fact, Leath’s assessment in the ISD interview is backed up by earlier reporting from the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller on 09/27/16:
So the Cirrus was still airworthy after the accident, and Leath’s assessment of the damage is that it was minimal, so you might assume that ace pilot and stud president Steven Leath simply got back in the saddle and flew the plane home. Except Miller’s reporting says that didn’t happen. Instead, by not flying his airworthy, minimally damaged plane home, Leath stuck the school with an additional $1,100 bill for storage.
Well, that’s obviously not very manly or miserly, but okay. Maybe Leath’s passenger on that day — reportedly a Ms. Leath — had some irrational objection to flying in a damaged plane with the same pilot who almost killed her, but whatever. What that does leave us with is the question of how the Leaths got from Bloomington to Ames, and once again we find that answer in Foley’s original report on 09/23/16:
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking Foley’s story doesn’t specifically say that the observed “skid marks” were on the runway, but because this is a family post we’re going to assume that’s the case. More importantly, what Foley’s reporting does tell us is that Leath’s solution to the problem of getting himself and his wife from Bloomington to Ames was to have his very own aeronautical taxi service pick him up at a cost of $2,200 — bringing us to a grand total of $3,300 additional dollars that Leath stuck the school with because he didn’t have the cojones to fly the airworthy, barely-damaged Cirrus back home. (And again, we’re ignoring the $12K damage to the plane, which Leath initially stuck the school with.)
Given all that, what are the odds that in March of 2014, ISU President Steven Leath was genuinely concerned about the per-gallon cost of fuel while attending Iowa State’s game in New York? And the answer is: he could not have been less concerned about what that trip cost in terms of fuel or anything else. Which in turn means that not only is Leath’s safety excuse for the Horesheads stops a lie, but so is Leath’s economic excuse for those same stops.
So. What could possibly account for Leath’s state-owned plane stopping at the bustling metropolis of Horseheads, NY, both on the way to, and on the way home from, a basketball game in New York City?
And the only possible answer is: Leath’s horrible relatives. Even if we allow for one fuel stop at Horseheads on the way to NYC, the only conceivable reason for the second stop is to drop Leath’s pushy relatives back home — which in turn means that’s also why Leath’s plane fueled up at Horseheads on the way to NY. That flight could have taken on fuel at twenty other locations, some of them even easier to get in and out of, but because Leath’s relatives lived near Horseheads that’s where Leath’s plane landed.
But it gets worse for Leath, because in fact the entire story he told to the ISD reporters was complete garbage. To see why, let’s assume that Leath’s pilots — two high-time, multi-engine-rated, IFR professionals — do come to him with a cockamamie plan to stop at Horseheads twice because of safety and cost concerns. If we also assume that Leath has no relatives in Horseheads, his presidential response to that plan would be to first reassure them that he was sensitive to their concerns, but then to follow up with an alternative plan along the following lines.
Instead of flying to Horseheads, and then NYC — which, as Leath acknowledged in his fantasizing to the ISD, would have prevented him from going “right to New York City for the game” — Leath would have proposed one of two options. First, fly Leath directly to NYC to get him to the game as quickly as possible, then fuel up there despite the additional cost. (Reporters being reporters, and the internet being the internet, I am confident someone is doing research on this point, determining what the actual price difference would have been between fueling up at NYC and fueling at Horseheads. That price difference would also include the cost of the additional fuel burned while landing and taking off at Horseheads the second time, versus maintaining level cruise out of NYC.)
Alternatively, if the price difference really was eye-popping, the pilots could fly Leath directly to NYC, drop him off, then fly to Horseheads or anywhere else and fuel up while Leath was at the game. (We are assuming, perhaps erroneously, that Leath did not also comp the pilots to the game.) In no case, however, would Iowa State Super President Steven Leath allow two staff pilots to lock him into two unnecessary fuel stops when he could have been making better use of his time.
How do we know? Because every other word out of Steven Leath’s mouth in the ISD interview, and every justification for his use of ISU”s flight operations, has to do with the cost-effectiveness of moving him around, not the cost-effectiveness of logistics. In quote after quote, whine after whine, Leath emphasizes his fundraising prowess, and how critical ISU’s airplanes are to his effectiveness in that role. Not only would it not be too much to say that Leath believes time is his most important commodity — not fuel costs, or any other costs — but by incredible coincidence here is flyboy Leath saying exactly that, in a 09/02/13 story by the Des Moines Register’s Jens Manuel Krogstad:
Whatever the fuel-cost savings afforded by landing in Horseheads twice — if there actually were any savings — we also have to take into account the pro-rated cost of Leath’s time as president, even if he was only goofing off at a basketball game. In that context, just appearing at Madison Square Garden put Leath in touch with 19,812 potential donors, to say nothing of chance meetings with other potential donors among the ten million or more local residents. By contrast, while killing time at Horseheads, Leath would have been lucky to meet a gopher . (Meaning a real gopher, not someone from Minnesota.)
We have now considered two completely different ways in which Steven Leath’s statements about the Horseheads fuel stops can be unmasked as brain-dead lies. First, even simple math makes it clear that the ISU King Air 350 would only need one fuel stop for the round trip. Second, there is no way that ISU fundraising god Steven Leath would waste precious fundraising time in a podunk airport — let alone one near his unbearable relatives, let alone twice — when he could simply tell the pilots to take him directly to New York, then leave them to solve their stupid fuel problems on their own time.
Which brings us now to the third reason why Leath’s explanation of the Horseheads stops are necessarily a lie, which has to do with the bozo pilots he invented in order to get himself out of trouble. In Leath’s explanation to the ISD reporters, and in the discussion just above, it was assumed that two commercial, multi-engine-rated, IFR pilots really did go to the president of Iowa State University and tell him they would be fueling up at Horseheads, NY not once, but twice, whether he liked it or not. And yet in no reality has that moment ever happened to Steven Leath or anyone else flying as a paid passenger on any plane outside of a two-star romantic comedy.
Commercial pilots at all levels of service are responsible for their passengers. They have authority over the aircraft and crew, they are relentlessly schooled and tested in terms of their ratings and the types of planes they fly, but beyond that all pilots also know that they are first and foremost in the service business. That is in fact why you have never boarded a Delta flight or a United flight, or even a Pan Am flight back in the day, only to learn that pilot would be making a quick unplanned stop to pick up some cheap Jet-A.
Whether flying heavy jumbos or small craft like the King Air 350, pilots know that right after avoiding icing and fuel starvation, their number one priority is getting passengers from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. Which is not only why the two ISU pilots on that fateful day would never have proposed stopping at Horseheads twice, but if anyone had suggested fueling in NYC despite the increased cost, or dropping Leath off and heading back out to find cheap fuel, it would have been the pilots themselves.
Seriously — take a moment and try to imagine the exact scenario that Leath lays out, where two ISU pilots come to him and tell him that they’re going to be landing at what is officially known as the Elmira Corning Regional Airport . And while you’re doing that, also account for the fact that it really is possible to get stacked up over New York, meaning Leath would not only end up being delayed by the stop in Horseheads, he could be further delayed by traffic in NYC. Were the ISU pilots going to take that chance? Was Leath? No, and no. Leath would have wanted to get to NYC as soon as possible, the pilots would have wanted to get Leath to NYC as soon as possible, and if they needed to hunt fuel after that they would do that on their own time because that’s their job.
The only reason Leath’s plane stopped in Horseheads twice was to pick up the impossibly annoying family members that Leath subsequently threw under the press bus in the ISD interview. But those weren’t the only people Leath threw under the bus. Whether he ran it by them first or not, Leath and Iowa State have hung those two ISU pilots so far out to dry on the Horseheads stops that there is no way for them to walk back anything that Leath said. First the school itself, then Leath, flatly asserted that two high-time, multi-engine-rated, IFR pilots dictated those stops, which just happened to be in close proximity to Leath’s bossy relatives.
All of which now brings us to the fourth and biggest hole in Leath’s story. Who the hell called those relatives and told them to hustle down to the airport for a free round trip to NYC? Are we to assume that along with dictating the stops at Horseheads, those two ISU pilots also contacted Leath’s relatives and let them know when the flight was arriving? Because if that’s not the case, and Leath contacted them himself, then it doesn’t really matter who decided that the flight was landing at Horseheads, it only matters who invited the relatives to tag along at ISU’s expense. (If ISU and Leath do assert that the pilots invited Leath’s relatives, then they should also explain how the pilots knew that Leath had two extra tickets which were not spoken for, in a situation in which every ticket would have been spoken for ten times over.)
To sum up, then, we have a round trip from Ames to NYC involving Iowa State’s $2.4M King Air 350. For that trip one fuel stop and one fuel stop only was necessary, and by all rights that fuel stop should have been in NYC. Even allowing for one fuel stop at Horseheads, however, that stop would have been dictated by Leath, not the pilots, so he could give his relatives a free flight to the game, and we know that because Leath is the only one who could possibly have coordinated their arrival at the airport. After the game, however, the only reason that Leath directed the two ISU pilots to fly Iowa State’s $2.4M King Air 350 back to Horseheads was to save his relatives the time an expense of finding their own way home. There was no safety concern, there was no economic concern, and there was no ISU business which required that second stop at Horseheads.
As insane as all of that is, apart from his own malfeasance, ISU President Steven Leath has directly implicated the two ISU pilots in his lie about the Horseheads stops, which leaves those pilots with only two options. Either they can corroborate Leath’s lie, or, they can refute it. As you might imagine, however, the fact that they are both subordinate to Leath and employees of the school he presides over may have some influence on their decision. In fact, it may be making one or both of those pilots more than a little nervous. (Again, it is possible that Leath or one of the fine people at the ISU Department of Relations checked with the pilots in advance, to see if they would alibi Leath, but if that’s the case I’m guessing that was before this story blew up the way it did.)
There is no question that Leath told the pilots to land at Horseheads both on the inbound leg and the outbound leg. If the pilots are willing to lie on Leath’s behalf that makes them liars as well, but it’s at least understandable why the pilots might feel compelled to lie. Maybe their jobs would be at risk if they don’t play ball, or, perhaps — in the great tradition of the Iowa Board of Regents — they’ve been promised a plum retirement job if they step up and take one for the flight team.
What remains true as of this date — at least from the reporting I’ve read, which is everything I can get my hands on — is that the pilots themselves have yet to go on the record. Leath put them on the record in a way that makes them responsible for those stops, and the school did the same, but the pilots themselves have yet to be quoted or interviewed. It is of course possible that the school will never make them available, because that’s what corrupt bureaucracies do when the heat’s one, even when their own ethical guidelines call for openness and transparency. Another possibility, however, is that one or both of those pilots may be actively seeking the advice of outside council, now that Leath has implicated them in events which could conceivably cost them their jobs.
So why is Leath himself going down this road if he doesn’t have to? Well, that question answers itself. Against all reason, and after absolving himself of, and apologizing for, every other reported transgression, Leath is sticking to his preposterous lie about the Horseheads stops, and I can think of only one reason for doing so. At some point, I believe someone told Leath that he didn’t just violate ISU policy or regents policy, but that he actually did violate state law ( 721.2 ) when he picked up and dropped off his relatives at Horseheads. Because if that is the case, then Leath has no other option but to deny, deny, deny, while also throwing two sap pilots under the press bus to save his own sorry career.
For Part 2 of The Middle of the End for ISU President Steven Leath, click here.
This seems like a bad comedy plot.
Basically Leath is jetting around like a billionaire on an ISU president’s salary. He is Trump Jr., only on the state’s dime. (Imagine if a serious narcissistic ego-manic like Trump had Govt services at his beck and call!)
Leath stopped at Horsehead Memorial International Airport to impress his Bro. Hey, jump in have some scotch, and be impressed with your Bro’s lifestyle. Bottoms up.
(frankly I would not even think of detouring to pick up relatives in my Honda on the way to a game…let them find their own ride)
1. To cover for his billionaire jet-setting lifestyle Leath goes to the adolescent excuse bin. ” “little Stevie, why did you stop in Horsehead?”
“Well Mom, Billy said that gas is cheaper in Horsehead over Fishkill, and Frankie was needing to pee, so we decided to help the Widow Smith and her daughter Maggie go to church…blah blah blah. ” If you are a parent or even been teenage boy you the drill…you obfuscate on and on and on hoping either Mom get confused or gives up and Dad never finds out.
2. Don’t you love students? Too naive and inexperienced enough to be cowed by power, they actually ask important questions somewhat without fear of reprisal. Maybe we should all revert back to our not-so-cynical youth..
3. And what is all this hunting bullsheet? Leath hunts with alumni, he hunts with Rastetter’s managers, he hunts with celebrities…he hatches his awe-inspiring plans out hunting. Is this how this crew lies about things…out hunting? Or do they think that excuses all abuses? (oh Dick Cheney shot his buddy out hunting..OK, we all good now). Does Leath actually preside over ISU in between hunts trips to NC, land speculation, and other sundry activities?
The extended patronizing interview that Leath gave to the Iowa State Daily reporters is gob-smacking. I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that they not only conducted a good interview, but they didn’t get in Leath’s way by interrupting or trying to catch him off guard.
Just straight, on-topic questions, followed by paragraph after paragraph of blather from Leath. (That interview will be used as a case study in ISU journalism classes for decades.)
I honestly couldn’t tell if Leath was panicked or contemptuous of their right to even question him, but in either case he made things a whole lot worse for himself going forward. (There’s a reason that lawyers tell their clients not to say anything.)
And yes, everyone at ISU is getting a good look at the fact that Leath doesn’t have anything to do with — and clearly should not have anything to do with — actual education. He may have been a scholar at one point, but he’s given himself over to the perks crowd, and once that happens you’re finished.
PA Dolan says
It’s not just us: http://crookedtimber.org/2016/10/10/cuny-all-too-cuny-or-what-happens-when-higher-ed-hoodlums-arent-brought-to-heel/#more-40709.
Nasty isn’t it.
At some point the academics must see that despite hard work, and academic honors they fall behind their friend on Wall St. or private law practice, or as VP of marketing at IBM. So when they get into administration, they are in position to harvest the riches other make working for them, they believe they are entitled, and they feel justified in material rewards they were denied until they got into admin.
Like Leath they jet around like a billionaire, or like Cioco they indulge in vast and luxurious houses (Staiano-Coico and spouse Richard F. Coico, a professor and administrator at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, reside in Manhattan, Trumansburg, and Larchmont, New York from Wiki)
Two academics with 3 houses in uppity new york neighborhoods? Not meant to be when you are supposed to be serving people who likely eat beans and wieners to save money, and whom take the subway from Queens to go to school….
Anybody giving any money to a college or university foundation — which is almost always a private corporation — needs to have their head examined by a doctor who is not affiliated with that foundation.
There’s no way that Stead and Pappajohnn and Carver and giving money to UI so administrators can goof off, so that money is coming from less-sophisticated donors who don’t know how to contractually obligate the administrative trash at the schools to do the right thing.
No wonder the Iowa state legislature is reluctant to give these clowns any discretionary funds. Which of course also explains why J. Bruce Harreld gouged the students at Iowa this summer, in order to stock his own discretionary war chest.
What it also means is that the potential whistleblowers absolutely are not protected. And that’s what’s needed. You know that people all over UIHC, UI and ISU news services, accounting offices, travel agencies, and so on are seeing fraud (at the same time, mind, that normal people come in for microscopic scrutiny under TIER and the earlier cost-saving iterations). But they can’t report it because they’ll be canned swiftly and nobody’s protecting them.
What the whistleblowers need is a cool-off period of a year. For a year after their last report, no disciplinary actions or ticking-off may be placed in their files except for egregious, witnessed, and well-documented events. They may not be fired in the year following a not-obviously-frivolous whistleblowing report, even if they’re at-will. Attempts to discipline, demote, or otherwise marginalize them for a period of five years afterwards will be subject to special scrutiny, with damages to the employee if retaliation is observed. And the whistleblowers will choose any lawyer they please, and have their legal expenses paid by the state.
Surely Joe’s covered this territory before, though.
It is like the old line: “the NCAA got mad at Kentucky, so put Eastern Carolina on suspension”.
Robillard, Leath etc are so layered up (and lawyered up) that they really have nothing to fear…..unless they are as nasty as the serial abuser and million-dollar leach called Leath.
There is always a fall guy, even if he is as high as Univ counsel Marcus Mills.
It would be nice to have a university protection program; be nicer if Iowa voters woke the hell up…
We are at the point, where a presidential candidate threatens his political opponent with jail! And Iowa supporters of this fascist do not blink an eye…..
Is there a rule of law anymore?
Actually it means local media need to be setting up encrypted tiplines. And no, I don’t mean Gannett. Does Ryan have a tipline?
Good post. You write, “As a coincidental aside, we are currently living through a serious but instructive moment in American history, in which a nationalist, racist, misogynistic presidential candidate has been put forward by one of the two major parties.”
Yet, Iowa is one of the states that Trump is doing quite well and may actually win. Perhaps too many Iowans are too gullible, or worst case too many are not as bright as they probably should be. Perhaps, in Iowa, it’s too easy to be corrupt for guys like Leath and Robillard and too easy to be a serial liar like Harreld.
Granted, corruption happens everywhere, so maybe Iowa is no better or worse than anyplace else.
I don’t really know, but I assume you live in Iowa. I would be interested in your thoughts.
Actually I don’t know how well Trump is really doing here. If you look at the poll questions for the polls showing up in the reg, the company’s not exactly Pew. The poll questions are pitched to the deeply uninformed and kinda racist, so it’s not all that surprising that the picture you get is “Iowa likes Trump”. We voted twice for Obama, and I’ll be a little surprised if the state actually does go for Trump.
Given the freefall Trump is currently in, I wouldn’t bet on him winning anything outside of Mississippi and Alabama. As for Iowa, it is in his demographic wheelhouse, with a larger percentage (compared to other states) of older, white, non-college-educated voters, and particularly males. As a number of pollsters have noted, that’s Trump’s key voting bloc, so it makes sense that he would be doing a little better here when compared with other states less-old, less-white, more educated, or with fewer males.
I do think there’s an unrecognized component between Republican success in Iowa — and particularly Branstad’s longevity — and not only the corruption and cronyism at the board, but a kind of echo-chamber mentality on the Democratic side. Having looked at the intersection of education and state politics for a year, if you asked me who was leading the charge against corruption in the state — in either party — the answer would be no one. Because of the Republican dominance in high-visibility elected offices, however — Branstad, Ernst, Grassley — that vacuum of oppositions advantages the people in power. (If no one in any official capacity is complaining, voters aren’t usually going to lead that charge.)
On the Republican side, Branstad has convinced me of the need for lifetime term limits (2). On the Democratic side, there’s a lot of tongue clicking and tsk-tsking, but nobody actually takes a strong public stand. The BoR is wide-open for crooks, and there’s no consistent voice in opposition — which, if you think about it, is pretty incredible given the political hay anyone could have made over the past year.
I think the Democrats in Iowa are lazy, soft, and as self-interested as the cronies in power, albeit not necessarily corrupt. If you want votes, you have to appeal to the voters, and the Democrats are just relying on safe districts as opposed to taking territory or putting forward a consistent message.
As for anyone I respect in either party who might make a difference, the only guy I can think of also <a href="http://bleedingheartland.com/2016/10/10/where-are-they-now-john-norris-edition/"just moved back to the state. He’s been around the block and then some, and he wouldn’t take crap from trash like the leadership at the board. (And he wouldn’t work for a candidate who took trash from the board, either.)
This is Part 2 of The Middle of the End for ISU President Steven Leath. For Part 1, click here.
When Iowa State President Steven Leath was asked why he picked up and dropped off his own relatives in a state-owned
$2.4M$2.875M airplane in March of 2014, so they could attend a basketball game with him in New York City, his answer was a lie of commission because what he said in reply was not true. The two ISU pilots flying Leath on that day did not force Leath to make two stops at Horseheads, NY, for safety reasons. Instead, Leath himself dictated that the ostentatious state property he was already using for dubious official business be diverted to Horseheads for personal reasons.
Prior to public awareness that Leath made those Horseheads, NY stops, however, Leath was still committing a lie, but this time by omission. Simply by not coming forward and acknowledging what he had done, Leath was lying to his superiors at the Iowa Board of Regents. Only after Leath’s lie of omission was exposed by AP reporter Ryan Foley, were other reporters — and specifically the reporters at the student-run Iowa State Daily — able to ask the questions which prompted Leath to lie by commission about those same Horseheads stops. (See also Part 1 of this post.)
Over a year later, when ISU President Steven Leath had a “hard landing” at the Bloomington, IL airport, on 07/14/15, this time in a state-owned half-million-dollar airplane that he was piloting himself, he should have immediately reported that accident to his employers at the Board of Regents, along with notifying local airport officials and the FAA. Even if you’re the president of a university, when you put a half-million-dollar piece of machinery out of commission and almost kill yourself and your wife in the process, and then spend thousands more to summon another $2.875M piece of state property to solve your self-inflicted travel headache, you communicate all of that to your boss so there aren’t any misunderstandings, and so no one will be able to accuse you of trying to hide the accident later on.
And in fact, Leath himself agrees on that point. From the extensive interview he gave to the students at ISD, on 10/05/16:
As far as we know, those statements about who Leath notified are all factually true. What Leath omits, however — meaning, what he intentionally lies about, by omission, to the students he’s talking to — is the timing of those notifications, and the timing turns out to be critical. Because while ISU President Steven Leath did eventually tell his boss about the damaged plane, he did so not when all of the other interested parties were informed, but significantly later — meaning, at the earliest, an entire month after the accident.
That the regents had an expectation that Leath would immediately report his accident is also not in dispute, because as president of ISU, Leath occupies a critical position in the regents’ enterprise. Whether to make sure Leath was not suffering any post-accident trauma, or simply to prepare for potential press fall-out, the board had every expectation that it would be informed in a timely manner, meaning as soon as possible. And that’s assuming there were no other relevant dynamics in play, which in this case there were.
Historically, we also know the regents had an expectation that they would be informed as soon as possible because of their reaction when former University of Iowa President Sally Mason botched an interview question on campus sexual assault in 2014, which in turn sparked national publicity and peaceable protests on campus. Here is the headline, subhead and lede for that story, as reported by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 02/28/14:
Now, as we subsequently learned when the regents ran a fraudulent search to appoint J. Bruce Harreld to replace Mason, the regents actually have zero interest in campus safety or sexual assault at Iowa, or they wouldn’t have appointed a cultural imbecile to run that school. Simply by choosing Harreld, who had no experience in academic administration, and who openly derided Mason’s six-point plant to combat campus sexual assault during his candidate forum, the board proved that they were merely using campus sexual assault to discredit Mason. (See also UI’s recently bungled campus climate survey on sexual assault, and the deafening lack of commentary from the board. Whether sexual assault, rape or suicide, the last priority at the Iowa Board of Regents, or with Harreld himself, is the safety and well-being of the students, who are now also being routinely asked to fund the regents’ serial crony mismanagement.)
As to why the board felt that it was caught off guard by a story that was being widely publicized, we don’t know. What we do know, however, is the specific gulf of time between when that publicity kicked off, and when the board was finally notified. From a follow-up story by Miller on 03/06/14:
After little more than a twenty-four hour delay, and after being ratted out by one of the regent minders on campus, the Iowa Board of Regents went berserk on Mason for failing to inform them, in a timely manner, of exactly the kind of events that tend to occur on a university campus. Nobody crashed anything into anything, nobody almost died, and nobody knocked a half-million-dollar flying machine out of commission. And yet, after a lag of only a day or so, Mason was publicly castigated, the regents went into closed session to review her “performance”, and the board subsequently followed up with an official ritual flogging.
It should also be added that at the time, no other factors were in play. The board had already decided to contractually treat Mason like a rented mule, they were about to twist her arm on their performance-based funding sham, and they were gleeful about the opportunity to lambaste her in public. And yet, after her interview gaffe no one accused Sally Mason of trying to personally profit from the twenty-four hour delay in notifying the board, which is not the case with Leath. Because as it turns out, ISU President Leath did personally profit by waiting a month or more to notify the board about his airplane accident.
Steven Leath’s Initial Lie of Omission
On 07/14/15, while returning from an eleven-day vacation in the school’s single-engine Cirrus SR22, Iowa State University President Steven Leath had a “hard landing” at the Bloomington, IL airport. In taking a close look at Leath’s belated communication of that accident to the Iowa Board of Regents, it is important to note a key factor in the timeline. From Ryan’s Foley’s initial report about the accident, on 09/23/16:
Incredibly, more than a full year after Leath’s accident, the former head of ISU’s flight ops still did not know about the damage to the plane, which kept the Cirrus SR22 off-site and out of commission, first at Bloomington, then at Pella, IA, where final repairs were performed. More importantly, however, it turns out that the accident also occurred only weeks before the approval of Leath’s huge new contract, and that is a hard fact. On 08/05/15, at the regents’ next scheduled board meeting, Leath was due to receive a new contract extension and pay raise — meaning Leath had a clear financial motive for not telling the board about his piloting incompetence.
As to whether the regents were ever made aware of the accident, despite the fact that the former head of flight operations was still clueless until Foley informed him of the damage, we have this, also from Foley’s initial report:
As already noted, however, the question for Leath is not whether he informed the board about his accident, but when he informed the board. From Rastetter’s comment it’s clear that Leath did inform the board at some point — or at least Leath informed Rastetter — but Rastetter’s comment does not reference the timing of Leath’s disclosure. In typical Rastetter fashion, instead of documenting a germane fact he offers the broadest generalities, leaving himself maximal wiggle room.
Following his story on 09/23/16, Foley added this tweet later in the day:
The next day, on 09/24/16, Foley added more information about the timing of Leath’s disclosure to the board, and again highlighted why the timing was critical — yet the answer was still administratively vague:
Again — this time through one of his media drones at ISU — Leath asserted that he did tell the board, but not “immediately after” the accident. On 09/26/16, in an official statement on the ISU website, Leath once again asserted that he notified everyone who needed to be notified, but again insistently omitted the specific timing of his notification to Rastetter:
While the timing is still vague, note Leath’s assertion that “…there was no attempt to hide this event from anyone.” While Leath still does not disclose when he told Rastetter about the accident, it is clear from Foley’s reporting that the former head of flight operations was never told, calling Leath’s assertion into question. (How ISU had one of its two planes out of commission for weeks on end, and the head of flight ops did not know about that, remains unexplained. Unless of course the Cirrus SR22 was part of ISU’s flight ops in name only, and was in practice treated like Leath’s personal airplane — meaning Flight Services would not have been disrupted by its absence. That in turn may also explain why Leath didn’t think much about taking the plane to NC for an eleven-day vacation, when that would have obviously precluded anyone at ISU from using the Cirrus during that time.)
A bit later on 09/26/16, a story by Austin Harrington in the Ames Tribune shed important light on the timing question:
So Leath told Rastetter at some point, but Rastetter never informed the whole board — meaning when Leath’s contract was approved by the board on 08/05/15 , at least one voting member, and perhaps all eight of the other voting members, did not know about Leath’s accident.
Then, in the same Harrington piece, a time frame finally does appear:
While Leath does finally pin down a timeline for his disclosure of the accident to the board — or, more accurately, only to Rastetter — his justification for that timeline begs credulity. As to the notification itself, the accident occurred on 07/14/15 and Leath’s new contract was approved on 08/05/15, approximately three weeks later. If Leath did not inform Rastetter or anyone else at the board about the accident until “one month to five weeks after the incident”, then Leath did not inform the board until one or two weeks after approval of his new contract.
As to Leath’s justification for that delay, Leath quite literally invents his own anachronistic reality, which is admittedly interesting in itself. Instead of availing himself of the benefits of modern technology, whether via telephone or email, text or video chat — all of which Leath certainly makes use of in his daily dealings as president of a sprawling university, to say nothing of furthering his unparalleled fundraising exploits — Leath posits a world in which the only way he could inform his boss of his accident was during one of their infrequent face-to-face meetings. Considerably more interesting, however, is that even within that preposterous conceit, Leath is still lying.
Note, too, the incredible disparity between Mason’s one-day delay in notifying the board about peaceable protests on campus, and Leath’s four-or-five-week delay in notifying the board about his aerial assault on the city of Bloomington. Would the board have accepted Leath’s excuse from Mason — that she was merely waiting for the next regularly scheduled meeting with Rastetter to bring him up to date? (That would be a resounding no.)
Two days later, on 09/28/16, DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland added confirmation from the board, in typically mushy regent-speak:
As regular readers know, that is a normal response from the board, and in particular from Lehman, who wouldn’t give a straight answer if you asked him his name. Even though Leath was already on the record that he notified Rastetter four or five weeks after the accident, Rastetter’s media mouth came back with “fall 2015”. Not only is that answer ridiculously broad assuming a seasonal reference — meaning between 09/21/15 and 12/21/15 — but in the context of higher education “fall” describes the first term of the academic year, meaning Leath’s notification could conceivably have come earlier.
If Leath did tell Rastetter “one month to five weeks after the incident”, as he claims — and as Lehman broadly concurs — then Leath told Rastetter about the accident sometime between 08/14/15 and 08/21/15. Whether Leath or Rastetter ever narrow that time frame or not, it is clear that entire time frame falls after the approval of Leath’s new contract on 08/05/15. (Leath’s FAA-mandated check ride also took place sometime in August, meaning Leath may even have gone through that remedial process before informing Rastetter of the accident.)
With that notification timeline firmly established, then, here is how Leath himself summarized all of that during his extensive interview with reporters from Iowa State Daily, on 10/05/16:
Again, keep in mind that this is the president of Iowa State University, and that he is talking to three reporters from his school, who work on the student paper. He has already disclosed to another reporter that he did not notify Rastetter until a month after the accident at the earliest, yet once again Leath avoids that point by simply stating that he told Rastetter. While that is factually true, it is deceptive in its intent because it implies that Leath notified Rastetter at the same time that the other notifications were made. Why is Leath once again lying by omission, to his own campus? Well, the obvious answer would be that the students to get their ISU news from the campus paper, so lying to that media outlet was in Leath’s self-interest.
As we also know from Leath’s official statement on 09/26/16, however, the following is not true:
Given all of the means of communication at Leath’s disposal, and his own admission that Rastetter needed to be notified, there is no question that Leath omitted notifying the board of his accident for at least one full month and as long as five weeks. It is also equally clear that Leath’s contract renewal took place prior to that same four-to-five-week window in August. And yet, incredibly, as we will see, even Leath’s contention that he was compelled to wait until the “next time I got with [Rastetter]” is also a lie of omission, for two reasons.
Steven Leath’s Alternate-Reality Lies of Omission
Leath’s four-to-five week lie of omission to the Board of Regents, about his accident, has been exposed. In response, Leath is now telling a lie of commission about his delay in informing the regents — meaning, specifically, that he had to wait until he “got with” Rastetter in order to communicate that information. What Leath omits in that fantastic scenario, however, is that he actually had two documented opportunities to communicate his accident to Rastetter prior to the vote to approve his new contract, and in each case he elected not to do so. And yes — Leath should have called Rastetter or the board office immediately, but even allowing for Leath’s cockamamie lie about why he did not do so, he’s still lying by omitting critical information.
Taking all of the events in both Part 1 and Part 2 of this post in sum, here is what we know:
03/28/14 — Leath attends the UConn-ISU basketball game at Madison Square Garden, along with his relatives, whom he picks up and drops off in the ISU King Air 350.
07/14/15 — Leath almost kills himself and his wife in a “hard landing” at the Bloomington, IL, which damages both wings and destroys a runway light.
08/05/15 — Leath’s new contract, which includes a pay raise, five-year term, and new deferred compensation package, is approved by the Iowa Board of Regents.
08/14/15 — This is the earliest date by which Leath told Rastetter about the accident.
08/21/15 — The latest date by which Leath told Rastetter about the accident.
For the sake of argument we will accept Leath’s convenient premise that he was not obligated to use the same phone that he almost certainly has on his person every waking minute of every day, which almost certainly has Bruce Rastetter’sd number in memory, to report his accident to Rastetter as soon as possible. We will also accept that Leath could only tell Rastetter about the accident the next time he “got with him”, whatever that means.
The problem with all that, unfortunately, is that we know, as a factual matter, that Leath was in contact with Rastetter on a least two occasions before the 08/14/15-08/21/15 time frame, and that those two occasion gave Leath the opportunity to communicate his accident to Rastetter prior to the 08/05/15 vote on his new contract. All of which means that not only is Leath lying about his real-world obligation to report the accident in a timely manner, he’s lying about the alternate reality he invented to explain why he couldn’t report the accident in a timely manner.
As you may know from reading other Ditchwalk posts about the festering abscess that is the Iowa Board of Regents, the summer of 2015 was not only notable for Leath’s plane accident, it was notable for the fraudulent presidential search that Regents President Rastetter orchestrated in order to hire J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa. In among the machinations driving that sham search we also know that Rastetter arranged secret and improper-if-not-illegal regent meetings for Harreld on 07/30/15, after which Harreld dined with Leath and his wife. As to how that dinner came about, we have that from a 09/25/15 story by the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson:
While Leath could have been lying about that, given all the other lies he was actively and passively telling at the time, Rastetter himself corroborated Leath. From Rastetter’s official statement, defending his indefensible conduct with regard to the secret regent meetings:
While globe-trotting ISU President Steven Leath was completely incapable of calling Rastetter and telling him about the airplane accident, he somehow had no problem coordinating a dinner with Bruce Rastetter, for the benefit of the future fraudulent president at UI. And of course that makes no sense at all. Even if all Rastetter did was text Leath, and all Leath did was text Rastetter back, that was an opening for Leath to say — what with is new contract coming up in only a matter of days — “Oh, by the way….” But Leath does not say anything to his boss about the accident.
Given all of the coordinating Rastter had to do to get four other regents to his private place of business, in secret, along with coordinating Harreld’s arrival time and transport to the premises, to say nothing of making sure Harreld could get to the Leath’s afterwards, it is exceedingly unlikely that all of the coordinating between Rastetter and Leath took place in a few texts. Instead, it’s almost a given that there was some actual chat, perhaps on more than one occasion, during which Leath also failed to notify Rastetter that only two weeks earlier — at the outside — he came close to leaving more than skid marks on a Bloomington, IL runway.
Is it possible that Rastetter and Leath talked about the Harreld dinner before the accident on 07/14/15? Sure, but that would back Rastetter up to the 07/08/15 “VIP Lunch”, which UI traitor and co-conspirator Jean Robillard hosted for Harreld at UIHC, and Rastetter attended. Meaning the clinging stench of a done-deal hire would only get worse for Rastetter. What is not possible to imagine is that after Harreld dined with Leath, that Rastetter did not get Leath on the phone — if he had not already ordered Leath to call — to debrief Leath about the new toad he was planning to hire. (If there is ever any actual investigation of corruption at the board, phone records would conclusively prove when Rastetter and Leath talked during the July-August 2015 time frame.)
Even if we assume that Rastetter and Leath coordinated the Harreld dinner prior to Leath’s accident, however — which is exceedingly unlikely — that still doesn’t help Leath because of what happened at the regents meeting on 08/05/15, when Leath’s new contract was approved. If you read the meeting minutes for that board meeting, the first thing you’ll notice is that the meeting is listed as telephonic — meaning everyone called in, rather than meeting in person. As it happens, however, I do not believe that to have been the case, for the following reasons.
First, the location of the meeting is listed as Room 4, in the Scheman Building on the Iowa State campus. Since the board does convene meetings at each of the state schools, and at other locations around the state, it seems at least possible that this particular meeting took place at ISU. Second, other telephonic board meetings list the board members as “connected”, rather than “present”, as is the case in the minutes for the 08/05/15 meeting. Third, of the thirty-three people present for the meeting, four of those individuals — ISD/IBSSS Superintendent Steve Gettel, and board staffers Bob Donley, Diana Gonzalez and Todd Stewart — are listed as being on the phone, which would seem to indicate that all of the other people were physically in Room 4 of the Scheman Building on the ISU campus. Fourth, although the meeting took place at the height of vacation season, it was the first regular board meeting in two months, after the traditional July break during which people crash airplanes and rig presidential elections.
Assuming that the meeting did take place on the ISU campus, then, and that all nine board members, including Rastetter, were physically present, would you care to guess who was also listed as being physically present for that meeting at Iowa State?
That’s right — not only is Steven ‘What Phone?’ Leath in the same room with Rastetter during the 08/05/15 meeting, but so is Warren ‘What Accident?’ Madden, the head of ISU flight operations, who also knew nothing about the accident at the time, and still knew nothing about the accident over a year later, when he was contacted by AP reporter Foley. In fact, unless Leath was somehow beamed into the hot seat for his testimony, then beamed back out again, it’s probable if not likely that Leath and Rastetter chatted in the hall before the meeting, or at Leath’s office before the meeting.
And yet even if none of that happened, and even if the meeting was telephonic, there was nothing to prevent Steven Leath from telling the entire assembled board about his accident at that time. And yet somehow, miraculously, even though it was only three weeks after “the incident”, super incredible colossal university president Steven Leath could not remember to tell the board that he put an airplane in the hospital, although that would occur to him a week or two later.
Even if we buy into Leath’s lunatic alternate reality, he still had at least one and likely two documented opportunities to tell Rastetter about the accident before his contract was voted on, and he passed on those opportunities. And of course in the real world, Leath had every waking minute over twenty-two days to tell the board about his accident, meaning the question is not whether Leath failed to inform the board prior to the vote on his contract, which Leath himself acknowledges, but why.
Leath’s explanation — which is even dumber than his explanation for the Horseheads, NY stops in 2014 — is that he just didn’t have the opportunity. As we now know that answer is a lie for at least two different reasons. So — why on earth did ISU President Steven Leath fail to inform the Iowa Board of Regents about his plane accident, prior to locking up his lucrative new five-year deal?
At the 08/05/15 board meeting, four employees had new contracts approved: CEO/XD Donley, ISD/IBSSS Super Gettel, UNI President Ruud, and ISU President Leath. Loyal lapdog Donley got the traditional regent incentive payments and deferred compensation plans, which grease corny corruption at the board, including a balloon payment of $120K in year two. Gettel got a 3% bump in pay, plus a couple of low, five-figure incentives. Ruud got a 2.5% bump in pay, plus a two-year $150,000 ($75K per) deferred comp plan that he would never see, because six months later the board would run him out of town.
And what did Leath get from his regent benefactors? He got a 5% bump in pay, a brand new five-year appointment at $500K+ per year, and a new five-year $625K deferred comp plan ($125K per) to replace the one that made him the eighth-highest-paid college president in the entire country in 2015. All of which brings us, finally, to the central question of this two-part post, and of the still-unfolding story of Leath’s accident, his violations of school or regents policy, and even of state law, as detailed in Part 1.
Would Iowa State President Steve Leath have been offered the same contract if he had informed the Iowa Board of Regents about his accident prior to their vote? And before you answer — yes, it is entirely possible that he would have, but only because the Iowa Board of Regents is thoroughly corrupt. In no other circumstance, however, having just damaged state property — which he took on an eleven-day vacation no less — would an equitable board have given Leath those terms, even if the incident had been kept in house.
How do we know? Well, one way we know is because of how berserk the board went on Sally Mason, as documented above. We can also infer the board’s response to Leath’s accident from this story, by the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 08/07/15, only two days after the board meeting on 08/05/15:
The total dollar value of that investigation was a little over $5K. Here’s what that investigation ended up triggering:
To recap, the cost of hangering the Cirrus in Bloomington, and of sending the King Air to pick Leath up, was $3K+ alone. The final repair costs topped
$12K— whoops, now $17K [see item 22]. And then of course there’s all the money that was spent sending people on other planes, because Leath put the Cirrus out of commission — after also parking it in NC for eleven days.
Also, remember that we still aren’t including disclosure of the fact that Leath shuttled his relatives back and forth to NYC in 2014, or any other abuses he may have committed at the ISU Flight Service, or anywhere else on campus. We’re just talking about the accident that he covered up so effectively that even the head of flight operations never heard about it. Which — as it now turns out — actually has prompted an investigation by the board.
From the AP’s Ryan Foley, on 10/05/16:
If Leath’s flyboy antics were sufficient to kick off a compliance review in early October of 2016, then it stands to reason that Leath’s disclosure of those same antics would have kicked off a compliance review prior to approval of his new contract. That again attests to the financial advantage Leath gained by keeping his mouth shut until after his new deal was approved. Even if the official board response to Leath’s actions was the same then as it is now — meaning wholesale support despite clear evidence of failed judgment and deception at the very least — compliance reviews cost money and attract unwanted attention from the public and press. All of the time that will now be spent slow-walking that regent-wide review, whitewashing the findings so no one’s integrity is questioned, and protecting the laughable reputation of the Iowa Board of Regents, will not be available for other mission-critical projects — like, say, a faublous new hangar and upgraded amenities at the Ames airport.
Even if you believe Leath would still have received another five-year deal if he informed the board about his accident prior to the 08/05/15 meeting, and even if you think the board would have thrown a five-year deferred comp package at him, I don’t see any way the board would have or even could have given Leath the same dollars in that comp package. I also think there is no way Leath would have received a 5% annual pay increase, particularly when both Ruud and Gettel received significantly less despite not having put a half-million-dollar plane out of commission.
If Leath’s raise would have been 3% or 4% instead of 5%, that’s money he would not now be banking. If his compensation package was $100K instead of $125K per year, that’s $125K he would not be reaping over the life of the deal. If the contract had only been for four years instead of five, that’s $500K+ he wouldn’t be pocketing because he told the truth, instead of lying by omission until after his deal was approved. In every way, ISU President Steven Leath stood to profit financially by not reporting his accident prior to the 08/05/15 board meeting, and as we now know he did not do so.
As Open and Honest and Transparent as You Can Be
On the same day that he conducted his extensive interview with the Iowa State Daily, Leath met with the student senate and answered questions as part of his hastily orchestrated contrition offensive. From Iowa State Daily’s Alex Connor, on 10/05/16:
To the extent that people have noticed Leath’s omission, and to the extent that he has been asked about it, his only response has been that he simply didn’t have the opportunity to talk with Rastetter — or any other members of the board — until one or two weeks after his new deal was approved. As we have seen in this post, however, leaving aside the abject idiocy of that claim, Leath clearly did have the opportunity to talk to Rastetter on 08/05/15, either publicly or in private, and he chose not to do so. He almost certainly also talked with Rastetter before and/or after his 07/30/15 dinner with Harreld, which was yet another opportunity to communicate the accident prior to the approval of his windfall contract.
Here again is how Regent President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland — who is currently co-chairing the presidential search at the University of Iowa — responded to Sally Mason’s unconscionable twenty-four hour delay in notifying the board that students were making their voices heard on campus:
To bring this two-part post full circle, on 07/10/16, just after news of the infamous Rastetter-Leath land deal broke, I wrote a post titled The Beginning of the End for ISU President Steven Leath. In that post I quoted Leath himself commenting on the dinner that he and his wife hosted for J. Bruce Harreld on 07/30/15. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 09/25/15, three weeks after Harreld’s sham appointment, and at most one to two weeks after Leath finally told Rastetter about damaging Iowa State’s half-million-dollar airplane:
With regard to the regents’ enterprise, the main reason people do not usually have the information they need to make informed decisions about the conduct of key players is because the key players are all lying, cheating trash. Ask them an honest question, you get a dishonest reply. Ask them to prove their statements, you get righteous indignation, bluster, contempt, ridicule, then a speedy retreat behind family, high-placed friends and state funded propaganda machines.
Steven Leath not only conducted himself unethically if not illegally regarding Iowa State’s Flight Service, including lying by omission on multiple occasions, but in now trying to cover up and explain away his abuses of power he has repeatedly lied to the Iowa State community. It is of course unacceptable that a university president would do any of those things, and yet as an Iowa alum the only thing I can think to say is welcome to the club.
Also note that the barracks used in ISU’s geology camp were previously internment buildings during WW2.
What a fantastic opportunity for ISU students; sleep in a building where Japanese people were desperately housed in a a sad episode of WW2 fear-driven xenophobia….
There is a complicated ISU (excuse) post on the Leath use of his airplanes.
Alot of material there, and the flight logs are difficult to process, due to replication. My initial impressions:
1. Leath flies to Jefferson NC alot on that Kingair. Excuses include: meetings; competitive fuel pricing (hahahhaha); blah blah.
2. Leath spends alot of time in Montana and Wyoming. Apparently ISU has land there, or some kinda Geology camps. Never seen a big deal university president personally supervise side-ventures that can’t amount to much.
3. Janet Leath is listed as a ISU employee’. Is this true? I do not see her on any state salary lists. I could not find anything much about her on searches.
4. Leath’s purchase of that small plane came about as a special opportunity, a deal that you can’t refuse. He says an ISU alumnus died and the school bought the plane at a great price. Weird.
5. With Leath’s land deals, his hunting, his paying attention to Montana, and Wyoming, his checking out his home and business in NC, his paying attention to Rastetter, where does he find time to actually administrate at ISU?
6. You will also Leath flies to Grinnell, and towns in Iowa that are within reasonable driving distance. You will note Leath spends about 4000.00 to fly to destinations that a simple airline ticket would procure a flight to for under 500.00. Does Leath really save that much time with this scheme?
7. Lastly, one of the Leath must have had a recent appt at the Mayo Clinic, because they commandeered the plane to Rochester MN.
Wish I had that kind of air taxi……
I’m going to come back to the FAQ that ISU posted, because it’s a pretty spectacular example of a university throwing in the towel on any pretense of integrity and going full spin. (When I saw that the microburst” lie was still there in force, I knew the whole page would blow up on them.)
In reply to your numbered points:
1. It seems to me that the idea of giving a university president millions of dollars in discretionary funds, whether on the school’s books or through a related but legally separate foundation, is a disaster waiting to happen. I don’t know how that all got started, but someone needs to put a stop to it. If the admins expect faculty and staff to put forward a rationale for every paperclip, then the damn slugs in administration can toe the same line.
(The idea that you can take an eleven-day vacation and call it a business trip because you met with a “potential donor” in your own home is also ludicrous.)
2. The whole Montana satellite campus thing is weird, particularly when Harreld blew up the P3 UIMA project because it was too far from the center of campus. And yes, very odd that Leath frequents the place. It’s not like Montana is famous for it’s hunting or anything. Or its hunting.
3. From the FAQ [#17]:
So while her “extremely important” position is unpaid, anything she does is considered ISU business, meaning it can be deducted or used as an excuse for blowing discretionary funds.
4. The Cirrus purchase and its use are one of two issues that are really going to hurt Leath in the coming days. (The other is the fact that he didn’t tell the board about the accident until after his new contract was approved.)
5. I wrote the earlier “End of Leath” post for that reason. At some point he just stopped being an academic or even an administrator, and became lord of all he surveyed. The first tell came when he went ballistic at the idea that it was anyone’s business that his own boss fronted him $1.15M to buy a plot of land. If you don’t get why people would be concerned about that at a public university, you’re already gone.
6. Break the Cirrus flight logs down and you find about 20 total trips over 2+ years, and a total of 30 or so days flown out of a possible 750+. The plane was bought for him as a toy, and he used it like a toy.
7. I don’t know why he went to Rochester. I also don’t know why he blasted down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama recently, but maybe they had a special on gulf shrimp.
In a future post we will take a detailed look at the massive ISU Flight Service FAQ, which was posted on 10/12/16 by the enterprising (and then some) folks at the Iowa State Department of University Relations. As you may be aware, however, that info dump has already provoked a number of additional revelations, and I am confident that the steady drip of incriminating evidence against ISU President Leath will continue to mount over the coming days and weeks. (For the definitive post on why the Horseheads, NY stops were not related to fuel-cost concerns by Leath’s pilots, Leath, or anyone else, see this demolition job by DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland.)
In order to inject a little vigor in this otherwise blasé presidential election season, and because Steven Leath is the putative president of Iowa State University, I thought it might be fun to write a post in which you, the reader, can come to your own conclusion about whether Leath is an honest man, or someone you would not want to buy a used car from. While it is a quaint notion, here at Ditchwalk we have an abiding belief that when you’re the president of pretty much anything — particularly in the public sector — you shouldn’t be a liar and a cheat. (Relatedly — and you would think this would go without saying, but apparently not — you should also not campaign for a serial sexual predator who is running for president of anything, particularly if you are the president of a public body yourself, and are responsible for ensuring the safety of campuses where tens of thousands of women work, study and live.)
With regard to his “hard landing” at the Bloomington, IL airport, here is how Iowa State President Steven Leath initially described the damage he did to the school’s Cirrus SR22, while giving an extensive interview to three reporters from the student-run Iowa State Daily:
As you can see, President Leath clearly considered the damage he inflicted to be trivial. A couple of bolts, one new part, and the plane was good as new. In fact, the airplane was reportedly still airworthy after the accident, although for some reason Leath elected not to fly the plane home after slamming both wings into the runway. (More on the plane’s airworthiness in a moment.)
Sitting in on Leath’s ISD interview, however, and apparently ever the stickler, was Assistant to the President for Communications Megan Landolt, who added the following just as soon as Leath finished explaining how his plane crash was like hitting a deer:
Okay…so maybe the repairs were a bit more involved than a single part and a couple of bolts. Leath is still insistent — even though he elected not to fly the damaged-but-airworthy plane home — that the necessary repairs were minimal, and completely blown out of proportion compared to…well, I guess maybe cratering the plane, or tearing off an entire wing off. (Neither Leath nor Landolt elaborated on that point.)
By contrast, here’s how those same trivial repairs were documented in the maintenance log for ISU’s Cirrus SR22 – designated N176CF. Again, the accident happened on 07/14/16, and as stated by Megan Landolt, a part that was needed in order to ferry the plane to Pella for final repairs was apparently back-ordered. That in turn accounts for the fact that the following maintenance entry occurred more than two months after the crash. (What it does not account for is why ISU said the plane was still airworthy, but again, we’ll get come back to that.)
On 09/23/15, Classic Aviation, Inc., of Pella, Iowa — an Authorized Cirrus Repair Center — entered the following information into the N176CF maintenance log (p. 7 of pdf):
As you can see, there’s a bit of a discrepancy between the characterization of the damage put forward by beleaguered Iowa State President Leath, and the description of the repairs put forward by an Airframe & Powerplant mechanic who would have his certification yanked in a second if he screwed around with the maintenance logs. Where Leath referenced one replacement part, the actual repair notes four parts by number, and several other parts as well. And of course there were also inspections to be made, to make sure Leath didn’t damage the main spar, or crumple something that would fold up under flight loads — like, say, the end of either or both wings.
Note, also, despite all of those repairs, that upon completion N176CF was not actually returned to service, but only permitted for a single flight from Bloomington (KBMI) to Pella (KPEA), where additional repairs would be made. And indeed that’s what happened, as attested to by the next maintenance entry, on 10/09/15, also by Classic Aviation (p. 8 of pdf):
Again, where the president of Iowa State University described this phase of the two-stage, two-state repair process as “touch up paint”, the maintenance log reveals a more involved process. We also learn that not only did Leath manage to bash both wings into the ground (which is harder than it sounds), but he also hit the tail as well. (As you can see from these images, the Cirrus SR22 uses ‘tricycle’ landing gear with a nose wheel in front, as against a ‘tail dragger’ layout with a tail wheel — meaning the tail of the SR22 is normally not in contact with the ground. Also, no — impacting the ground with the tail and both wings on a plane equipped with a nose wheel does not qualify as a ‘three-point landing’.)
Regarding whether the Cirrus SR22 was airworthy or not after the accident, the maintenance logs would seem to suggest that was not the case. And yet in the following quote the good people at the ISU Department of University Relations clearly asserted that it was the case, as part of a comprehensive statement issued waaaaay back on 09/23/16, as press inquiries were beginning to mount:
There’s no hedging there, yet it also seems pretty clear that if you need a Special Flight Permit from the FAA to ferry a plane from one repair facility to another, and that permit is only good after you bolt on a bunch of new parts, that your plane is not “airworthy” in any real sense. Perhaps tellingly, three days later, in an official statement on 09/26/16, Leath made no mention of whether the Cirrus was airworthy after the accident. The question of the FAA’s ruling on the accident, however, did come up in an Ames Tribune article by Austin Harrington, later that same day:
Now, as regular readers know I usually like to keep these blog posts tight — terse even — but here I think we have to allow for a brief aside that also goes to the question of Leath’s veracity. If you’ve flown at all, even as a passenger, you know there are things called ‘flaps’ on the trailing edge of an airplane wing, which can be lowered or extended by the pilot. Doing so is useful because it increases the lift produced by the wings, which in turn allows an airplane can remain aloft at slower operational speeds, such as those that occur during takeoff and landing.
What President Leath is implying in the quote above is that the only reason his bouncing, jouncing airplane decapitated a runway light was because the flaps were down for landing. While I am not a pilot myself, I can tell you that at best the sitting president of Iowa State was being intentionally deceptive when he made that statement, as documented by the carnage in the maintenance entries above. Had Leath been at the edge of the runway, flying straight and level at touchdown, even with flaps fully extended — as seen in this post-accident photo — the plane would have cleared the runway lights.
How do we know? Because you would have to be a moron’s moron to line a runway with lights that would actually strike the flaps or wings or any other part of an airplane if it was landing normally. (Iowa State University President Steven Leath also seems to believe there are a lot of morons reading the Ames Tribune.)
As to Leath’s assertion that the FAA did not rule what was clearly an accident to be, you know, an accident, I think the good president is also intentionally confusing a specific FAA term with the same exact word that all 7+ billion people on the face of the earth would use to describe what he did to that poor plane. It is entirely possible that the FAA did not rule his accident to be an official accident worthy of investigation by the NTSB, but that does not mean that Leath did not have an accident.
Why that distinction could be important — and here I am admittedly speculating — is that it may have allowed Leath to claim, at some point, before he realized that the claim would never hold up, that the Cirrus was still airworthy because it was not in an official FAA-certified wreck. And yet, as we’ve clearly seen, the FAA did ground Leath’s Cirrus until mechanical repairs were made in Bloomington, at which point the plane was only permitted for one flight to Pella.
Was ISU’s Cirrus airworthy after Leath’s non-FAA-grade accident? According to the FAA, clearly not. Could Leath have wrestled it into the sky and limped home, if, say, war broke out between Iowa and Illinois? Maybe, but if we’re going to be official about the FAA not calling Leath’s accident an accident, then flying without a permit would clearly involve a violation of some kind, so no — the Cirrus was not airworthy after the accident. All of which really does seem to indicate that ISU President Steven Leath wasn’t being particularly honest when news of the accident broke, well before he was also not being honest in the following days and weeks, including up to now. (The word ‘airworthy’ does not appear anywhere in the just-posted Flight Services FAQ.)
Before you rush to judgment, however — which Leath also cautioned the students against, while lying to them about multiple other issues during the ISD interview — here again is how the president of Iowa State University, a school teeming with over 35,000 impressionable students, initially explained the Cirrus damage to the entire campus:
While I obviously have my own opinion, I don’t want to bias your decision, so I’ll simply leave it to you to determine if that explanation squares with the maintenance logs. If you think it does, then Steven Leath is an honest man. If you don’t, then he’s just another crony chiseler working for the corrupt Iowa Board of Regents.
Which brings me to a related point. This doesn’t seem to be common knowledge at the board for some reason, but there actually is a difference between simply declaring that you’re an ethical and honest person, and being an ethical and honest person. In the former case you make an unsubstantiated declaration, which you cannot then substantiate by getting people who made the same unsubstantiated declaration to vouch for you.
In order to actually be an ethical and honest person, you have to act ethically and honestly not 20% of the time or 50% of the time, but 100% of the time — including 100% of the time when no one is watching and you could literally get away with murder. You have to earn your reputation as an ethical and honest person, and once you earn it you have to protect it, including from those people who took the easy way out by making an unsubstantiated declaration about their ethics and honesty.
As to whether Iowa State President Steven Leath is or is not an ethical and honest man, I leave that determination to you. Honest Abe, or Tricky Dick Nixon? Admittedly, for most people the question is academic (pun intended), but if you’ve got a spare $500K in your pocket you may want to give it some additional thought. Because it’s entirely possible that in the coming weeks ISU President Steven Leath may have a used Cirrus SR22 to sell.
These people are always so surprised to find out that universities have smart people who not only can but do read and write, and that sometimes the reading and writing matters. That’s a lovely bit of work on the repair logs. I’m trying to imagine exactly how he put that thing down in a manner that damaged both wings pretty hard *and* damaged the tail on a plane with trike gear. What was his airspeed, I wonder? I’d like to see that accident report, because I’m betting he lied on it, and lying to FAA would most certainly be the end of the end.
The timeline also just points up the tawdriness of this whole bull**** — you’ve got Leath behaving like some ******* kid who’s smashed his dad’s car and is hoping he can get his body-shop buddy to fix it up before his dad comes home from that business trip, because then maybe his dad’ll never notice. I’m guessing Leath didn’t say anything until he realized the plane couldn’t be fixed fast enough to stop Bruce from noticing. It’s also plain now that Leath is done, because if your main boy’s going to do you like that, you don’t know what other damaging **** he might try to pull. Or already has pulled. Doesn’t help that Leath panicked and tried to point the finger at his boss. If he’s not done after this meeting, he’s done as soon as Bruce has wrapped up using him for whatever he’s using him for. He might want to sell that hunting land, too, and buy something closer to North Carolina.
About the accident itself, no matter how I come at it I end up convinced that he stalled the plane for the reason you mentioned — because his approach speed was too slow for the conditions. (In another post or comment I noted that online vids show Cirrus pilots coming in under the recommended approach speed, but always in good weather. If Cirrus pilots get used to being slow in ideal conditions they may end up behind the curve in gusty conditions.)
As long as the wind was really blowing, he would be okay, but the minute the wind slacked he would lose lift. If that happened near touchdown, he’d actually be lucky because the ground would keep him from spinning or going inverted, but the instinct to pull back and over-correct would also bleed more speed. That gets you the first hit, a bit of a lurch back up, then the plane stalls to the other side with the nose high, and that gets you the other wing and tail strike.
I really do believe the man (and his wife) were lucky to walk away from that accident, and it’s a good thing he’s not going to fly that plane anymore. He seems distracted, and you can’t be distracted when you’re flying — and particularly not in a hot little plane like that.
And yes, the timeline. If the conversation turns to Leath keeping the board in the dark about the accident until after his contract was approved, he’s finished. His credibility everywhere will be zero, even if the only reason he was hired is because he’s a good fundraiser. (People with money don’t like meeting with stains.)
As for the Rastetter-Leath dynamic, I’m fascinated. I never expected Leath to out Rastetter on the land deal, and I agree Rastetter won’t take kindly to that, but remember — these people all know each other’s secrets. Robillard took the easy route by getting out before the roof caves in, but even there nobody could have pushed him out because he was a key co-conspirator in the Harreld hire.
It’s going to be really interesting to see how hard Leath fights to keep his job, and what he’s willing to do along the way. (And yes, I was thinking that land in Hardin County may be put back up for sale soon.)
Excellent post. Combined with Bleeding Heartland’s hard work on detailing the ‘Elmira lie’, and Ryan Foley’s good journalism, a complete picture of the Leath Grief is presented.
I do not know if Steven Leath was an honest academician or an honest researcher while at NC State or other schools, but something obviously happened to him while at ISU. He lives a billionaires jet-setting life on public dollars, and he will stoop to almost any low to lie and deceive his minions about his escapades. He is not very good at spinning yarns (unlike Rastetter) which suggests to me that he was not always this deceitful.
I agree with Dormouse that Leath looks like Tom Cruise trying to fix up his buddy’s Porsche 928 in Risky Business. One can cover-up a little scratch or smallish dent (and who hasn’t) but this is a bit more than that. The issue is air safety and obviously a rattle can and a suction cup is not going to pass that muster.
No,.Leath has himself a big cover-up to spin; he also has much Leath-splaining about all those trips and side-trips and double landings all over the country from Wyoming to NC.
The case is clearly abuse of power, malfeasance, likely some obstruction of justice thrown in (sounds like hid damage then did not fess up, and never was going to fess up). Wonder if Leath can’t negotiate a deal for immunity or amnesty for his resignation; otherwise someone needs to ring him up on legal charges.
Moreover the big picture issues appear:
1. When did university president’s devolve to nothing more than fund raising sapsuckers, flying all over the country to wine and dine big donors? Appears their largest talent has to be sucking up or being obsequious to big money people. (and no Harreld is not qualified in that)
2. Related to #1, is that when the state Govt’s try to starve their beast, or cut costs, or even appropriate funds from state schools, they turn their university administration into whores and entertainers to make up the deficit. That or settle for a 3rd/4th/5th rate campuses which should be embarrassing to governors and citizens if any of them have self-respect left.
3. And when are people/parents/taxpayers going to realize and take action on the administrations of said schools, who run things into the ground, while expanding their own staff, giving themselves undeserved raises, and upping their personal perks wile dissing the actual students and faculty at their schools?
(goes for BOR too who manage to take loads of money from the till with illegal bonuses, noncompetitive contracts, and no-ad jobs)
The age of academic corruption has brought down all this nonsense at great expense while degrading the academy and the real goals of education, public service, research, and citizenship.
I clicked on the link you gave for the 10/5/15 meeting in Ames and got a File Not Found message. I went to the BOR website and got the same result.
I checked the Sept and Oct issues of Inside Iowa State, and saw no mention of the BOR having been on campus (or announcing that they will be on campus). This publication usually tells the who, when, what on these sorts of items. Maybe I missed it (I was try to verify–easily, I hoped– whether or not BOR people met in the flesh or via telephonic connection.)
Anyway, I thought it interesting that the 10/5/15 Minutes are, apparently, unavailable right before the Oct 2016 meeting at UNI.
The meeting you’re referring to, I think, is the 08/05/15 meeting (it’s confusing, I know), and you’re correct. Since that particular post went up a few days ago, the .pdf that I linked to has been changed.
Here is the original link I used, from the Iowa Board of Regents website, to link to the minutes from that meeting, in two locations in that post:
That link is indeed dead.
This is the new link, with a different filename, which I have updated in those two locations in the post:
I didn’t save the earlier version, so I can’t compare the texts, but if someone changed something on the sly I think they would have simply updated the current file instead of generating a new one — unless that’s not possible with a .pdf. (I don’t know.)
I do know that the regents put up a new website a few months back, and from time to time it’s down. It’s also a very poor implementation of a new roll-out, because it broke a lot links to documents in the prior site structure. (Again, whether that’s suspicious or just another indication of regent sloppiness, I don’t know.)
Then again, the entire board apparatus is nothing more propaganda and advertising these days, so I don’t think anyone is too worried about any historical/scholarly/governmental obligations to leave a proper paper trail.
** Also meant to add that I tried to confirm that the meetings were at ISU and not telephonic, but I couldn’t find any proof either way. I tried a news search looking for first-hand accounts, but came up empty. And yet that’s also true for other board meetings, which seem to be covered at a remove at times, rather than moment-by-moment (as they were during the protests after the Harreld hire).
Anyway — I appreciate you taking the time to look up the meetings. It’s possible that they were indeed telephonic, although as noted that renders some of the commentary in the meeting minutes incomprehensible….
I think Leath was probably a functional administrator in NC, as long as there were proper controls and he answered to responsible leadership. Put him to work under Rastetter, however, and all of the worst aspects of humanity seem to be seeping from his pores.
Between his arrogance, condescension, and patronizing the students, to say nothing of now turning the entire ISU administration toward the end of covering his own ass — it’s like a second J. Bruce Harreld has been revealed in Ames. Or maybe Harreld is Leath 2.0.
In any case, this version of Leath can’t be covered up, and I don’t see how he convinces anyone that he’s learned his lesson, or whatever that garbage was that he was trying to sell on his contrition tour early last week. Whether he can be dislodged I don’t know, but as a leader of any merit or value or even crass utility, he’s finished.
UNC was taken over by Margaret Spelling several years ago, no? She’s part of the same GOP-funding crew.
You are right on that. Spellings (Bush’s Sec of Eduction) was named president of UNC in Nov 2015 (like Harreld, no academic experience and called monumentally weak by the WaPo. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/14/naming-of-margaret-spellings-as-unc-system-president-called-a-disturbing-new-low/ )
Spelling mounted her charge in March 2016 (at about 800,000 a year in education salary-conscious NC). Her predecessor Ross was fired for being a Democrat. She, like Harreld, was recently formally installed (like yesterday???)
There may be a link between UNC and NC State politically, but agreed I would not trust the current Gov in education matters (and it looks like he is trailing this year in the election)
I bet actually Leath was not a functional administrator and that there are mid-level admins there who cannot ******* believe anybody would hire him as a university president.
It’s a given you have to be, at a minimum, capable of being a tremendous bastard if you’re going to be a university president. (That’s actually why in the end I was cool on Krislov — I thought he’d be too reluctant to use muscle in a direct manner and would get eaten alive here. Both the other two would’ve been fine.) It’s also a useful quality if you’re an upper-level administrator. But it’s one thing to have the ability to do that and quite another to be a sloppy good-ol-boy crook. Good, competent, capable administrators are not sloppy good-ol-boy crooks, because under them things don’t actually work. So my guess is that he just got in with the right bunch of fellows and that he got promoted into positions where he had competent administrators under him, and their job, like the ISU strategic comm guys’ job, was to make him look good and paper over his mistakes.
That’s how I figure it.
In an AP story that doesn’t look to have traction in Iowa, Ryan Foley describes Leath’s various activities with plane passengers whose names were redacted (lord knows why) from flight logs.
Looks like Leath-Air and his buddies killed alot of doves and ducks for Iowa State fund-raising. Other friends-of-the-program include an NRA official and a wacko Iowa businessman. Wonder how that sits with the students?
This fund-raising sounds like it is really ‘fun-raising’.
Not Ken Burns says
Also posted on ABC website:
Wonder why only the Burlington Hawkeye in Iowa covers it?
Because the DM is a Gannett paper, if you can still call it a paper, and their coverage of the race has been weird from go, treating Trump as a credible candidate even now. Something going on with local GOP establishment & them.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week the Iowa Board of Regents will hold regular meetings on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa. You can read the individual agenda items for those meetings here, but you will not find the one issue foremost on the minds of those who follow developments at the board. Specifically, there is no mention of the ongoing investigation into Iowa State President Steven Leath’s misuse of airplanes owned by ISU, or of the compliance investigation recently undertaken by the board as a result of Leath’s flying abuses.
As to the two-day meetings, it’s likely that any substantive discussion of those issues will come on Thursday, when the heads of the regent institutions are scheduled to give their reports. On that point, here is the entire text of the separate .pdf which exhaustively details those important administrative briefings:
Because the heads of the state schools can set their own agendas, it is unlikely that Leath himself will seriously address his abuses of power, let alone the extent to which he is now using the state-funded bureaucracy of his school to thwart transparency, cover up those abuses, and generally run a third-rate propaganda operation out of the ISU Department of University Relations. Leath will certainly say all the right things to avoid any actual repercussions for his failings, and it is possible that some of the regents may have questions for Leath, but given that the board is presided over by President Bruce Rastetter, who rules with a malevolent iron fist, it’s also likely that the corrupt leadership of the board will thwart, derail or simply overrule attempts to ask Leath serious and appropriate questions about his misconduct.
Of course were Rastetter himself possessing of any ethics, he would — as suggested by a recent incisive editorial by the Dubuque Telegraph Harreld — recuse himself from any proceedings in which the board was sitting in judgment of Leath:
As it is, we now know, without any doubt, that Bruce Rastetter has no ethics, as attested to by multiple acts on his part over the past year — and that’s leaving aside his ongoing advocacy for the serial sexual predator who is running for president of the United States. Fortunately (or unfortunately), we don’t have to wade into the stench of national politics, or even the state politics Rastetter himself corrupted when he paid Terry Branstad to take another run at the governor’s office in 2009. All we have to do to see that Bruce Rastetter is manifestly unfit to serve on the Iowa Board of Regents — assuming the board still aspires to be more than a feeding trough for corrupt political cronies — is look at Rastetter’s conduct as president of that body.
A Year of Revelations and Then Some
Over the past thirteen months, three examples of Regents President Rastetter’s own abuses of power have been reported in the press. First, last fall, there was the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa, which Rastetter himself orchestrated by running a sham search in league with traitorous UI administrator Jean Robillard. Second, this past summer, there was the disclosure that Rastetter had effectively fronted $1.15M to Leath to buy a plot of land that Leath could not otherwise afford to purchase, survey and then parcel out himself. Third, from the steady stream of disclosures about ISU’s Flight Services we now know that Rastetter also played a role in Leath’s attempt to deceive the board about his “hard landing” in the summer of 2015, which occurred three weeks before the board’s approval of Leath’s exceedingly generous new contract.
As to how Rastetter factors in to the events following Leath’s airplane accident, we’ll get to that shortly. For the moment it’s important to note that the chronology of the reporting on those three stories does not match the chronology of the events as they took place. While the conspiracy to run the sham Harreld search reaches back into April or May of 2015 at the latest, the first incident relevant to this post occurred when Leath slammed his plane into a runway at the Bloomington, IL airport on 07/14/15. Despite almost killing himself and his wife, and costing the university over $17K in the process, by his own admission Leath told no one at the board about that accident until over a month later — meaning a week to two weeks after his new contract was approved.
The next chronological event of importance concerns the secret regent meetings Rastetter arranged on 07/30/15 for J. Bruce Harreld, at Rastetter’s private place of business in Ames — which also happens to be the home of Iowa State. Taking advantage of that happy coincidence, Rasetter had put Leath and Harreld in touch with each other, which led to Leath hosting Harreld for dinner at his home later that same evening.
At a regularly scheduled meeting of the board on 08/05/15, the regents approved a massive new contract for ISU President Steven Leath, who had still not informed the board about his accident three weeks earlier. Only after another week or two, between 08/14/15 and 08/21/15, did it occur to Leath to do so, but even then he only informed Rastetter about his accident — at which point Rastetter also knew that Leath withheld that information until after his lucrative new deal was approved.
On 09/03/15, as a result of Rastetter rigging the final board vote on 07/30/15, J. Bruce Harreld became the illegitimate president at Iowa. Ironically, however, approximately a month and a half later, on 10/18/15, news broke that at least one regent, and possibly four other regents, were unaware of the secret regent meetings Rastetter hosted for Harreld on 07/30/15, meaning Rastetter himself withheld information from the board which was germane to the multi-million-dollar vote to appoint Harreld.
Finally, sometime in October or early November, Rastetter expressed his pent-up outrage at Leath — for withholding news of the airplane accident prior to the vote on Leath’s contract — by giving Leath and his wife a guided tour of Hardin County, so they could pick out a picturesque plot of land. When the Leaths found an acreage they liked in November, Rastetter unleashed any lingering fury by fronting the $1.15M purchase price himself, at which time Leath responded by apologetically incorporating a holding company in anticipation of a future acquisition. Over the next three months, until sometime in January of 2016, Rastetter salved any lingering embers of Leath’s deceit by also paying to have the land surveyed and subdivided, before selling only those acres to the Leaths that they originally wanted.
Approximately six months later, on 07/11/16, the Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood broke the story of the secret Rastetter-Leath land deal. While the dignified and stately Leath blustered and sputtered over what he incorrectly believed was an invasion of his personal safe place, the Iowa Board of Regents — which was then and still is presided over by Bruce Rastetter — immediately absolved Rastetter of any possible impropriety, breach of ethics or violation of state Law, without conducting any investigation.
While a number of cronies did step up to defend Rastetter and Leath, including another board member that Leath approached about buying land, at no time did anyone assert that either Rastetter or Leath informed the board of their intent to purchase land for/from each other. In fact, to this day there is also no evidence that the board vetted the transaction, or that anyone at ISU vetted the transaction, although Leath did initially assert as much before walking that claim back:
As for Rastetter, he made it explicitly clear — through the president of his private company, Summit Agricultural Group — that he had nothing to do with the deal other than literally showing the Leaths the lay of the land:
A little over two months later, on 09/23/16 — meaning three weeks ago — AP reporter Ryan Foley broke the story of Leath’s 2015 airplane accident. Three days later, on 09/26/16, Austin Harrington of the Ames Tribune reported that at least one member of the Board of Regents was never told about the accident, despite Leath informing Rastetter four or five weeks after it occurred. Finally, bringing the entire crony land deal full circle, on 10/06/16 Foley also broke news regarding Rastetter’s real role in that transaction:
As a result of Foley’s report, we now know that Regents President Bruce Rastetter lied when he stated — through the president of his company — that he had nothing to do with the land deal. We also know that Iowa State President Steven Leath was not only the person who outed Rastetter’s lie, but Leath had no compunction about doing so even though Rastetter was the person who made it possible for Leath to buy the land in the first place.
But there’s more! Not only did Leath rat out Rastetter on the land deal, but at the end of Foley’s story Leath also walked back his statement that he notified Rastetter about his “hard landing” one or two weeks after his new contract was approved:
While it’s said there is no honor among thieves, it’s still pretty brazen to out your boss over a crony land deal that you yourself couldn’t close on your own. In fact, going to war with your boss in any circumstance is usually a losing proposition, but maybe Leath figures he has nothing to lose. Despite everything Rastetter has done for him, throwing Rastetter under the bus about the land deal, and hedging on the timeline for disclosure of his accident, are serious shots across Rastetter’s bow. If Rastetter decides to cut his losses and fire Leath (unlikely; too public and messy), or to torment Leath behind the scenes until he resigns (much more Rastetter’s style), then Leath may be signaling that he’s willing to take Rastetter down with him.
And yet…as tantalizing as that prospect might be, what we’re concerned with in this post is Rastetter’s betrayal of the board, so for the time being we’ll leave Rastetter himself to suss out Leath’s motivations.
Bruce Rastetter’s Betrayals of the Iowa Board of Regents
Because there is so much corruption at the Iowa Board of Regents, and because there are so many cronies playing multiple interlocking roles at the board and at the state schools, it can be hard to see Rastetters personal corruption through those crony trees. And that’s particularly true given that when Rastetter is not acting as board president he’s often involved with the board or Iowa State (and the other state schools) as a businessman or donor. If we ignore all of Rastetter’s other guises, however, and strip away all of the other players, we find that all of the following abuses are not in dispute:
* With regard to the Harreld hire, Rastetter never informed the full board, prior to the vote to appoint the next president at the University of Iowa, that he had personally arranged and hosted meetings between Harreld and four other regents, two of whom were not members on the search committee.
* With regard to Leath’s airplane accident, when Rastetter was informed of the accident by Leath, reportedly one to two weeks after the approval of Leath’s contract by the board, Rastetter never informed the full board about Leath’s accident.
* With regard to the Rastetter-Leath land deal, not only did Rastetter not inform the board in advance of that deal, and not inform the board upon consummation of that deal, but following disclosure of that deal in the press Rastetter lied to the board (and to everyone else) about the extent of his involvement.
To put the magnitude of Rastetter’s serial betrayals in perspective, note that simply by virtue of his land deal with Leath — as alluded to by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald editorial — Rastetter should recuse himself from discussing Leath’s serial abuses of ISU’s Flight Services. If the board hopes to have any credibility in the matter, those issues should be turned over to an independent investigator, by which I do not mean someone from the attorney general’s office, because that office also serves Bruce Rastetter in his role as regent president.
Now, however — on top of the abuses that Rastetter perpetrated during the Harreld hire, including intentionally keeping some board members in the dark about direct contact between Harreld and five of the nine voting members of that body, to say nothing of failing to notify the full board of Leath’s accident, whenever Leath actually told him — we learn that Rastetter lied to the board about his role in that same crony land deal. And yet incredibly, on Wednesday, the same corrupt Bruce Rastetter, who has, on three separate documented occasions intentionally lied to the board, will once again preside over meetings at the Iowa Board of Regents.
As detailed in the second half of a recent two-part post, the fact that Leath failed to inform the board about his accident prior to the vote on his new contract is both a scandal and grounds for termination. And yet, even if we assume that Leath did tell Rastetter about the accident one or two weeks after his contract was approved, not only does that not absolve Rastetter of his failure to communicate that information to the other eight members of the board, it is entirely possible that in keeping quiet Rastetter himself abetted Leath’s deception.
I do not know the procedure for approving contracts at the Iowa Board of Regents. It is possible, however, that the approval process speaks only to major deal points, while the details are either hammered out after the fact or in parallel. In any case, there may be a difference in timing, and more importantly in legal standing, between the board’s approval of a deal, and the actual memorializing of that deal in a signed contract. If that’s the case, and Leath’s new deal was not legally in force when Leath told Rastetter about his accident, then Rastetter would be complicit in deceiving the board.
If that seems farfetched, remember that Rastetter ran an entire fake search only to then hand the fraudulent winner, J. Bruce Harreld, an unprecedented initial five-year deal at $800K per year ($200K deferred). In that context, lying to the board to keep his prize toady in place at ISU would actually be perfectly in keeping with Rastetter’s prior behavior. It’s also worth noting that if Leath did tell Rastetter about the accident prior to the board’s approval of his new deal on 08/05/15, then not only would Rastetter clearly have abetted Leath in that instance, but Leath’s recent betrayal of Rastetter after such cozy machinations would certainly have been unanticipated by Rastetter. (If Leath did tell Rastetter about the accident prior to that board meeting, and Leath can prove it, Rastetter can be extorted by Leath.)
It’s also interesting that over the past few weeks, as the reputation of ISU President Leath has disintegrated, Rastetter has been missing in action as board president. While he has been doing damage control behind the scenes in typical Rastetter fashion, instead of making himself available as president of the board reporters have had to scratch and claw for terse quotes from the board’s perpetually constipated senior communications director. And yet again, on Wednesday, I have no doubt that Rastetter will once again take to his throne and preside over another crony farce, complete with tightly scripted dialogue for everyone to utter at the appointed times.
Whenever the issues surrounding ISU’s Flight Services are finally broached over the next two days, I do not expect a serious grilling for Leath, I do not expect him to lose any money, and I do not expect him to lose his job. If anything, he’ll probably get a bonus next year as an apology for having his non-existent integrity questioned. The reason I believe that is that although the disclosures about ISU’s Flight Services are recent, as those disclosures also make clear none of this is actually new — it’s just new to saps like me, who thought the state schools were something more than a clearing house for political and business deals greased with taxpayer dollars.
Like, for example…the snazzy new airport upgrade that Iowa State just shotgunned the city of Ames into funding, which also happens to be the airport where Leath kept the Cirrus when it wasn’t being repaired, and where Rastetter hangars his own fly toy:
The story as it now stands is that Rastetter’s response to finding out about Leath’s plane accident, after Leath’s contract was approved, was not only to say nothing to the other regents, but to fund and facilitate a real estate purchase for Leath, which Rastetter also told no one about at the board, then lied about to the board when his role in the deal was initially revealed. And yet somehow, in the great state of Iowa, that series of jaw-dropping betrayals as president of the Iowa Board of Regents prompts no actual penalty, nor even a public mention lest Rastetter be displeased.
Which brings us, inevitably, to all of the sleaze that nobody yet knows about, because there is zero chance that what’s already known is all there is. Where there any sort of serious investigation of the board, and a serious audit of the board’s finances and dealings, it is inevitable that more abuses would be disclosed. Which is of course why Steven Leath will never be investigated by the board, even assuming that he is not otherwise blackmailing Rastetter with the threat of further betrayals.
The Real Fiduciary Fraud at the Iowa Board of Regents
The first time I ever heard of Steven Leath was after last year’s sham appointment of J. Bruce Harreld at the University of Iowa. Leath initially came to the fore because of the dinner he hosted for Harreld, but even back then that mundane event stood out for one particular reason. Despite the stream of disclosures about Rastetter’s complicity in Harreld’s fraudulent hire, Leath was the only person at the time –and remains the only person to this day — to ever provide Rastetter with an alibi on even a tangential aspect of that fraud.
To be clear, I was horrendously naive about how corrupt Leath himself would turn out to be, but still — when the events of 07/30/15 were reported in the press, and as small as the favor seemed at the time, Leath stepped up and insisted that he was the one who suggested hosting Harreld for dinner, not Rastetter. Because I was not paying attention to higher education in Iowa prior to the Harreld fraud — because, like the naive fool I perpetually am, I assumed there were protections in place to keep human slime from taking control of the regents enterprise — I did not know that Iowa State had long been Rastetter’s personal crony playground.
Well before the newly appointed Rastetter hired Leath in the fall of 2011, and before Leath took office in early 2012, Bruce Rastetter was throwing his crony weight around the Iowa State campus. Now halfway through Leath’s fifth year of crony synergy with Rastetter, the corruption is barely disguised. By contrast, not only is J. Bruce Harreld coming up on his one-year toady anniversary at the end of this month, but this is the first time the board, and particularly Rastetter, have been able to jam loyalist trash into the top leadership position at UI. For those reasons and more it will take a while for Harreld to flex his own self-indulgent crony muscles, and to start making himself happy with the $10.8M discretionary Strategic Initiative Fund that he filled after gouging the students with tuition hikes this past summer, to say nothing of the millions in dark discretionary funds that are routinely laundered through the University of Iowa Foundation.
While trying to get my mind around the fraud of the Harreld hire late last year, I wrote a two-part post titled Regents President Rastetter, Fairness and Fraud. In that post I argued that Rastetter and his co-conspirators committed fiduciary fraud against the state because they knowingly spent taxpayer money on a sham search even after deciding that Harreld would win their faux election. To be sure, it was not an easy argument to make because of the way the Iowa Code (laxly) describes membership in the board, but I made the case as best I could.
The premise of my argument was that members of the board have a legally binding fiduciary obligation to the state, yet in the intervening time I have revised my opinion on that point. Today, I do not actually believe that the individual members of the Iowa Board of Regents have a statutory legal fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the people of Iowa. Everyone thinks they do, and the board perpetuates that lie for branding purposes — much like the board’s patently false claim (p. 4) to value ethics, honesty, integrity and transparency — but nowhere in state code have I found that specific statement. And that, I think, is the real fiduciary fraud at the board. (As noted in a prior post, as president of the board Bruce Rastetter literally gave co-conspirator Jerre Stead $10M-$15M in asset valuation by naming the new children’s hospital after the Stead family, yet no one batted an eye at that staggering giveaway.)
To the extent that you probably believe — as I used to believe — that there must be some regulatory or legal authority which keeps the regents in check, as it turns out, that’s also not the case. As noted in a more recent post, even the Iowa Attorney General, Tom Miller, works for Regents President Rastetter. And of course if there is no oversight there is no enforcement, regardless of any laws on the books.
For the second time in months, Iowa State President Steven Leath has fallen so woefully short of the minimum standard of conduct necessary to run a university of any stripe, let alone a public, partially taxpayer-funded institution, that there really isn’t anything more to say. And yet because the governor and the president of the board, and a majority on the board, and key players in the board office, are all corrupt, Leath will keep his job. This despite the fact that if there were even a cursory investigation of the two purported fuel stops at Horseheads, NY, Leath would be almost certainly be found to have violated state law. Likewise, if there was even a cursory investigation of Leath’s failure to notify the board about his accident prior to the renewal of his contract, he would be found, at minimum, to have violated four of the regents’ six core ethical values.
Even as a result of what we know right now, however, without any further investigation Steven Leath could be fired for cause for failing to notify the board about his accident in a timely manner, thus saving the state not only all of the remaining money due Leath on his illegitimate contract, but millions more. As reported by the AP’s Foley, on 09/24/16:
Leath won’t be fired, of course, because there are too many private entities waiting to reap the benefits of their prior fraternization with, and generous discretionary donations to, the Iowa State University president. And of course chief among them is none other that Regents President Bruce Rastetter himself.
On 07/10/16, just after news of the Rastetter-Leath land deal broke, I wrote a post titled The Beginning of the End for ISU President Steven Leath. Here is the end of that post:
To the degree that the Rastetter-Leath land deal was never investigated, which would almost certainty have turned up the fact that Rastetter was lying through his teeth when he said he was not involved in the transaction, we can only assume that the same neutered regulatory and law enforcement personnel who dropped the ball in that case will continue to suck on their thumbs in the hope of yet another pat on the head from Governor Branstad’s corrupt political machine. As to the board itself, the Des Moines Register pointed out several weeks ago that arch Branstad appointee Bruce Rastetter will keep any crony at the regents from suffering the public indignity of being held accountable for abuses of power:
If you are a private citizen, and you donate money to any of the state schools, not only are you fueling that corruption, but you are throwing your money away on people like Rastetter, Harreld, Leath and Robillard, who could not care less about you, about the welfare and safety of the students or campus, about ethics, or even about the rule of law. The good news — if you can call it that — is that I no longer believe Bruce Rastetter has secret plans for thoroughly corrupting the board, because he’s already accomplished that goal.
ISU President Steven Leath may have drawn unwanted attention to Rastetter’s systemic corruption by being sloppy and arrogant, but as this post attests, Leath’s conduct is by no means the exception. The president of the Iowa Board of Regents lied to the board on three separate occasions that we know about, yet still he presides. True to Rastetter’s genius as an instinctive, intuitive exploiter, he realized that if he could just find a sap to appoint him to the board, and to help him rise to the office of president, he could turn the entire $5B regents enterprise into a public-private partnership with himself.
As to how things have turned out for the regents enterprise as a bureaucracy and arm of government, it’s worth taking stock a little over a year after Rastetter orchestrated the fraudulent hire of J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa. At that time, in September of 2015, William Ruud was doing good work at UNI, long-time UI administrator and ‘fourth regent president’ Jean Robillard was serving as search chair and interim president at Iowa, Steven Leath was raising money hand over fist at ISU, and J. Bruce Harreld was the new — albeit completely unqualified — president on the block. Now, a year and a month later, the regents are rigging the next presidential search at UNI after driving Ruud out for reasons that were never explained; Robillard recently resigned from two key positions in the aftermath of the AAUP’s sanctioning of Iowa, and massive cost-overruns at the new children’s hospital, pending the hiring of his replacement(s) at UIHC and the UI College of Medicine; Steven Leath is on fire at ISU; and after inviting dignitaries near and far to celebrate himself at the beginning of the fall term, the illegitimate J. Bruce Harreld has once again disappeared into the bureaucratic woodwork like the crony cockroach he is.
This is the legacy of the man who will gavel-in the next meeting of the Iowa Board of Regents. To the extent that Rastetter seems to be immune to any concerns about his failed leadership, or about his demonstrated lies to other members of the board, the fact that he persists in office speaks to systemic failure in all aspects of state government. Until someone — anyone — in a position of authority stands up and opposes this man for his own demonstrable abuses of power, nothing will change at the board.
Obviously there is no one in a position of authority willing to challenge this corruption and if Republicans win control of the Iowa Senate it will only get worse. Republicans may get embarrassed by the blatant corruption of the Bransted/Rastetter axis but they won’t clean it up, they will bury it and make it harder for reporters like Foley to find evidence.
Are there any Democratic politicians who would run for governor in 2 years and start running now by highlighting this ongoing corruption?
There has to be more to be done here.
1. Iowas State accepts federal funding. Therefore it is to abide by federal rules and regulations about abuse of power and malfeasance.
2. The funds Leath uses are from an ISU donors fund. That fund has to be examined and chartered by a federal agency too. How many rules are there in these charters against self-serving with donor funds?
Obviously no one in the state of Iowa is going to investigate this political/charitable/educational fraud and malfeasance. The crony corruption reaches deep into the state governance. Likely the only institution to be able to take on these interests (from the Gov of Iowa to the millionaire head of the BOR) would be federal prosecutors. Everyone else is going to be intimidated and bullied.
To expect the young Story Co prosecutor (with 1 month on the job) to take on this power is setting up a pathetic over-match.
And like Kansas I might expect the Iowa AG to somehow cite the Dred Scott decision in all this… http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/us/article/Kansas-cites-slavery-era-case-in-abortion-case-9984413.php
A new article by Ryan Foley has exploded on the wires in Iowa and nationally.
Attorney Rob Sand (who must have some integrity) while working in the Iowa AG’s office, began investigating Leath’s malfeasance; however Sand was squashed by his supervisors at the AG’s office following a call from Iowa BOR attorney Amiee Claeys.
ISU people also fund out about Sand’s investigation. So it appears that an attorney trying to do his job at the Iowa AG’s office was smashed by ISU the Iowa BOR, and his own AG hierarchy.
The investigation was dropped into the lap of the new Story CO attorney, Jessica Reynolds, who (surprise) was completely bullied and intimidated by the cronies into ignoring this Leath-Gate.
The story has been picked up from Sn Francisco to Houston to Albany to Washington DC.
So the entire nation is reading about the crony gangsters who run wild in Iowa Govt, and especially regarding Iowa higher education.
How corrupt can the place get?
There are also issues of employee benefits including personal flights on ‘company planes’. Although these planes are ‘owned’ by ISU, they are employer owned aircraft. (Leath has to pay income taxes)
Thus there are rules of use of these aircraft. Did Leath list these benefits on his IRS returns? And did ISU?
http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/aviation-international-news/2006-10-05/bizav-groups-see-far-reaching-implications-new-tax-rule (this reference uses Kingair and Des Moines, interesting enough)
2. Further there are questions of nonprofits use of aircraft: For instance can Cecile Richards the head of Planned Parenthood use that organizations aircraft to fly clients out hunting in Montana?
http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/aviation-international-news/2006-10-05/bizav-groups-see-far-reaching-implications-new-tax-rule (controversial use of a CEO of aircraft for personal use)
The big headline from the just-concluded meetings of the Iowa Board of Regents was the laughable assertion by the corrupt head of the board, President Bruce Rastetter, that he is “extremely disappointed” in ISU President Leath for anything other than betraying the rampant, systemic corruption they have both fostered in the regents enterprise. Because that’s a big topic, however, and because there tends to be follow-up reporting on such stories — including yesterday’s excellent contextual summary by DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland — we’ll put that bit of absurdist theater on hold and instead take a look at the most substantive procedural subhead from those meetings. Specifically, after being cornered by damning facts, by unrelenting administrative incompetence at ISU, and by a rapidly rising tide of negative press, the courageous board voted to audit flights provided by ISU Flight Services subsequent to Leath’s hire in early 2012.
(The proposed audit is variously being reported as covering only those flights that Leath took himself, or, every flight flown by the school during that time frame. If the former narrower focus is adopted, flights including Leath’s wife also need to be audited [see #17] because she has an entirely unspecified, unpaid, yet “extremely important” board-appointed role in which she “works tirelessly to promote the university and its mission”. Uh-huh.)
To be clear, everything I know about auditing and accounting comes from a two-minute bit in an old Seinfeld episode, and I’m still not sure I got that right. In any case, with a little application of basic logic I think we can shed some useful light on Leath’s use of Iowa State’s Cirrus SR22, which he purchased for the school with $500K in discretionary funds [#3] in July of 2014 [#2].
By utter and complete fantastic coincidence, Leath also began qualifying to fly the Cirrus SR22 himself two years earlier, in late 2012 [#8], and completed qualifications several months after he had ordered the purchase of ISU’s Cirrus SR22 for [#9] reasons that had nothing to do with his desire to tool around in the type of plane he had just spent two years qualifying for [#4] at his own expense. So why did ISU President Steven Leath spend half a million dollars to make that purchase on behalf of ISU Flight Services?
From the ISU Flight Services FAQ [#1]:
Clear now? No? Good — because that’s exactly how Iowa State wants it.
One indicator, however, that the Cirrus was treated differently from ISU’s workhorse
$2.4M $2.875M$3.47M King Air 350 [#3] — which Leath also insisted on buying with discretionary funds, albeit in a back-door maneuver designed to avoid regents oversight — comes to us from this chockablock FAQ answer [#15]:
Okay — so ISU Flight Services owns two airplanes which are “available to all Iowa State units”. However, bucking the mantra of efficiency and standardization which has been emanating (think cattle and methane) from the Board of Regents since before the Cirrus was purchased, ISU has two completely different billing systems for those aircraft. Use of the King Air 350 is billed per-flight, much as you might expect from an airline, while the Cirrus is billed annually in departmental shares, much as you might expect if a bunch of private citizens went in on an airplane for personal use.
The big difference between such a private ownership agreement and the school-owned Cirrus, of course, is that neither ISU President Leath nor any of the hundreds (thousands?) of other individuals on campus who are also FAA-certified to fly that type of plane, who are also on the school’s insurance policy for flying that type of plane, and who also have departmental shares of that aircraft which allow them to fly that specific plane, had to shell out a dime for ownership, maintenance, hangar fees or any other associated costs. In fact, the only way anyone involved in that sweet ISU Cirrus deal could conceivably be out of pocket would be if they crashed into an airport and damaged both the plane and the airport in the process, then tried to cover up the airport damage on the sly while leaving the school to eat the cost of repairs to the Cirrus, only to then be found out and embarrassed into paying for the damage to the plane as well, even though there was no law on the books which said they had to, meaning doing so was an act of boundless generosity and good will on their part instead of some faint, belated demonstration of basic responsibility. But really, what are the odds of anything like that happening?
One frustration regarding the FAQ answer quoted above — and you would think the good people in the ISU Department of University Relations would have access to this information — is that the tens (hundreds?) of “departments that use the plane” are not listed, meaning there is also no indication of the number of flight hours accrued by Cirrus-qualified pilots in those departments. The obvious concern, of course, would be that while multiple departments are being billed for the Cirrus, thus distributing the ownership cost across the school’s budget, only one department, or conceivably even only one single person in one department, could be responsible for most if not all of the actual hours of use. But again, what are the odds of anything like that happening?
On the other hand, the fact that the university had to go to a third-party service to track the flights of its own airplane does give cause for concern, because that does make it sound like no one at ISU has any idea who flies the Cirrus, where it goes on those trips, or even why it goes on those trips. That in turn would obviously make it difficulty to bill the appropriate departments for their percentage of use, unless said departments were billed whether they used the Cirrus or not. Also, while the FAQ talks about a single third-party log, there are actually two logs for the Cirrus; one titled Flight Log, and one titled Supplemental Log, because apparently there was a fourth party with additional information.
What would be ideal, of course, would be a first-party log (or logs) which detailed exactly who was using the ISU Cirrus SR22, where it was flown, and when. Speaking of which, did you know that pilots are required to keep a log of their flights? Indeed, they are — meaning if Iowa State was having a hard time piecing the flight history of either one of its planes together, one solution would be to go to any of the pilots on campus who had flown that particular plane and ask them for log entries about their use of that aircraft, which of course they would be happy to provide.
Of course, if there were one or two pilots who made predominant use of the Cirrus, then their logs would be particularly relevant to the full, open and transparent inquiry just announced by the Board of Regents. (I know what you’re thinking, but apparently this inquiry is different from the usual full, open and transparent board inquiry which demonstrates none of those qualities.) In fact, because we know that ISU President Steven Leath flew the Cirrus from time to time, then from his log entries alone we should be able to get a much clearer picture of where the plane went and when, as well as some idea whether the percentage of annual costs billed to the president’s office (if any) were proportional to his use of that plane.
The ISU Cirrus SR22 Flight Logs
As noted, although only one log is referenced in the FAQ text, there are two Cirrus SR22 flight logs posted on the Flight Services FAQ: a Cirrus Flight Log.pdf, and a Supplemental Cirrus Log.pdf. Although the Cirrus Flight Log is more comprehensive, as a document it was created only moments after the Supplemental Cirrus Log, and in considerably less time. The Supplemental Cirrus Log originated on 10/10/2016 at 9:22:58 AM, and was last modified approximately seven and a half minutes later, at 9:30:21 AM — suggesting copy-and-paste or exported data, as opposed to hand-typed entries. Just over a minute later, the Cirrus Flight Log — which is approximately twice the size as the Supplemental Cirrus Log — was both created and last-modified, at 9:31:41 AM, apparently from an Excel spreadsheet.
While the Supplemental Cirrus Log contains no authorship information, the Cirrus Flight Log — titled Cirrus Flight Info Request in the document properties — was prepared by Norton, Michael E [U CSL]. Because of the tight timing between the two docs, however, it seems safe to assume that the same individual also prepared the supplemental log from a separate, less-comprehensive repository of flight information.
So where did the data in those two different logs come from? Well, from the FAQ we know ISU was “able to obtain a log of the Cirrus flights from a third-party service”. From both general knowledge and specific press references related to the Flight Services scandal, we also know that FlightAware — one such third-party service — was being used to track the Cirrus until ISU freaked out and went into full bunker mode over the rapidly evolving scandal.
If we check the Cirrus Flight Log we find the data arrayed in eleven columns. If we check the data outputted by FlightAware for custom reports, in a section on that web page marked ‘Report Specs and Details’, we find a rotating image (CR_samp_history_report.png) which shows data arrayed in eleven columns. If we compare the headings of each column in Cirrus Flight Log.pdf with the column headings in the image on the FlightAware website, we find that they match exactly, meaning the data in Cirrus Flight Log.pdf almost certainly came from a converted Excel spreadsheet exported from the FlghtAware site.
The data in Supplemental Cirrus Log.pdf is arrayed in nine columns. In the Cirrus Flight Log both the arrival and departure time is included in normal date/time format, while in the Supplemental Cirrus Log only the departure time is listed in UTC format. Also, where miles traveled are not included in the Cirrus Flight Log, miles are displayed in two different formats in the Supplemental Cirrus Log — nautical miles, and Standard Industry Fare Level miles (SIFL). (As to why someone would keep track of SIFL miles in a school-owned airplane, there are various tax implications for the school, and for any individuals using the Cirrus for either personal or mixed-used trips.)
One possible source of the data in Supplemental Cirrus Log.pdf is a pilot’s log, which all pilots are required to maintain for various reasons, including documenting currency with regard to FAA certifications. While flight logs used to be actual journals filled with hand-written notes, as might be expected there are now all sorts of powerful electronic variants. Not only can computerized flight logs perform many calculations automatically — including tedious mileage tracking between airports — but in some apps you can export custom reports directly to .pdf. (If the data in the supplemental log did come from a flight log, instead of another tracking service, pilots familiar with electronic logs might be able to identify the specific app from the output displayed in that supplemental file.)
The Cirrus Flight Log.pdf contains 45 rows or line items, each line item corresponding to a single point-to-point flight. The Supplemental Cirrus Log.pdf contains 23 line items, or half as many. While combining the two does produce a total of 68 line items, there is also some overlap between the two logs — as might be expected if one set of data came from a tracking service, and the other set came from a pilot’s log. In addition, there are some known flights which are not included in either log, some undocumented flights which can be inferred, and some flights listed which are redundant.
An Unofficial Audit of the ISU Cirrus SR22 Flight Logs
From the perspective of the FAA, the IRS and many other three-letter acronyms, a flight and a trip are the same thing — a single, point-to-point hop from one airport to the next. It is also true, however, in common parlance, that people make round trips from one airport to another and back again, involving two separate flights — or even multi-city trips involving a sequence of flights which originate from, and eventually terminate at, the same location. In the following unofficial audit we will group the various line items in the two Cirrus flight logs into trips as colloquially defined by common point of origin and termination. We will also keep track not of the total number of days in each trip, but of the number of days the Cirrus was flown on a given trip.
TRIP #1 — Supplemental Log — 08/22/14
Cherokee County Airport to Spencer, IA
Spencer to Ames, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: although the FAQ states that the Cirrus was purchased in July of 2014 [#2], these flights may have constituted physical delivery of the plane to Iowa State.
TRIP #2 — Supplemental Log — 10/23/14
Ames to Iowa City, IA
No return flight logged
1 day of flying.
[Note: the Iowa Board of Regents met in Iowa City on October 22-23, but the dfC10426BB.pdf”>times listed in the minutes for that two-day meeting do not match up with the time listed for this flight.]
TRIP #3 — Supplemental Log — 01/09/15 – 01/10/15
Ames to Indianapolis Regional Airport
Indianapolis to Ames, IA
2 days of flying.
[Note: there is a two-and-a-half month gap between Trip #2 and Trip #3, and yet incongruously that gap correlates almost exactly with the period during which Leath received additional flight training from Jim Kurtenbach, ostensibly in the ISU Cirrus SR22 [#9].]
TRIP #4 — Supplemental Log — 01/14/15
Ames to Pella, IA
No return flight logged
1 day of flying.
[Note: Leath was a licensed private pilot for a decade or so before ordering the purchase of the Cirrus SR22 at Iowa State. In advance of that purchase, he logged considerable hours in type, additional hours in that specific plane [#8], and additional hours in order to attain his IFR certification. Leath’s unaccounted-for training with Kurtenbach ended two days before this flight [#9].]
TRIP #5 — Supplemental Log — 02/04/15 – 02/05/15
Ames to Waterloo, IA
Waterloo to Ames, IA*
2 days of flying.
[The Iowa Board of Regents met in Cedar Falls (near Waterloo) on 02/04/15 and 02/05/15. This is the second logged flight which correlates with a board meeting. *The log entry for the second day shows the flight originating again in Ames and ending in Waterloo. Because the time stamp is the same, and the duration of the flight and the miles are the same, I am assuming that this is the second leg of a round trip which was incorrectly entered into the database from which the supplemental log was compiled.]
TRIP #6 — Flight Log — 05/12/15 – 05/17/15
Ames to Jefferson, NC
Jefferson to Sanford, NC
Sanford to Peoria, IL
Peoria to Ames, IA
3 days of flying. (The stop in Sanford was on 05/15/15.)
[Note: this trip occurs more than three months after the previously logged flight. This is also the first logged flight to North Carolina. In the log there is an additional line item for this flight, but it is redundant to another leg of the trip.]
TRIP #7 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 06/02/15
Ames to Cedar Rapids, IA
Cedar Rapids to Ames, IA
Ames to Cedar Rapids, IA
Cedar Rapids to Ames, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: the supplemental log only includes two of the four flights above, comprising one round-trip between Ames and CR. In the Cirrus Flight Log, however, all four flights have different times stamps, indicating that four separate flights were made on that day — perhaps as part of required practice in order to remain current with FAA regs.
TRIP #8 — Flight Log — 07/03/15 – 07/14/15
Ames to Lexington, KY
Lexington to Jefferson, NC
Jefferson to Bloomington/Normal, NC
2 days of flying.
[Note: this is the eleven-day vacation to NC, during which Leath damaged the Cirrus on the return flight that then terminated in Bloomington. This is the second logged trip to NC. In the Cirrus Flight Log, there is one redundant entry for the first leg.]
TRIP #9 — Flight Log — 09/23/15
Bloomington/Normal to Pella, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: this is the Special Flight Permit trip, in which the partially repaired Cirrus was ferried to the facility in Pella for final repairs, and as such it was almost certainly not flown by Leath. In neither log is there a flight which returns the plane to Ames from Pella, which probably occurred shortly after the plane was returned to service on 10/09/15, as per the maintenance log.
TRIP #10 — Flight Log — 02/10/16
Ames to Waterloo, IA
No return flight logged
1 day of flying.
[Note: this is a confusing entry because there is another flight logged on the same date and time from Ames to Ames (perhaps indicating touch-and-go landing practice), but there is no return flight logged from Waterloo to Ames. This is also the first logged flight since completion of the repairs to the Cirrus, leaving a gap of four months in the logs since the plane was returned to service in mid-October. Add the three-plus months the plane was out of service after the accident on 07/14/15, and that’s a seven month break with no logged or inferred flights other than the ferrying flights to Pella and Ames. Because that lapse occurred during the coldest months, and because FAA regs require three takeoffs and landings every ninety days in order to carry passengers, it is possible that this trip — however constituted — involved recertification for passenger-carrying purposes.]
TRIP #11 — Flight Log — 02/23/16
Ames to Waterloo, IA
No return flight logged
1 day of flying.
[Note: this flight is logged almost exactly like the preceding trip, with an Ames-to-Ames component and an Ames-to-Waterloo component with no return flight. Coming only two weeks after the previous trip, and following the prior seven-month lapse in logged activity, this also looks like either a recertification flight, or a shakedown after the plane (and pilot) saw little or no flight time over the winter.]
TRIP #12 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 03/12/16
Ames to Jefferson, NC
Jefferson to Champagne/Urbana, IL
Champagne/Urbana to Ames, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: although this is the third logged trip to North Carolina, this trip is unique because the entire round trip occurs in one day. In fact, the plane touches down in Jefferson at 2:04 pm EST, and departs again at 2:41 pm EST, meaning it is on the ground for just under 40 minutes. While it is entirely possible that Leath had a desperately important meeting with a critical potential donor who could only meet with him at the Jefferson, NC airport in that 37-minute window, the stop seems more consistent with dropping a passenger or passengers off and fueling up for the return flight to Iowa. (When the plane stops for fuel in Champagne/Urbana, it is on the ground longer in Illinois than it was on the ground in North Carolina.]
TRIP #13 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 03/25/16 – 03/26/16
Ames to Chicago/Rockford, IL
Chicago/Rockford to Ames, IA
2 days of flying.
[Note: the supplemental log shows the return leg on 03/27/16.]
TRIP #14 — Flight Log — 04/06/16 – 04/10/16
Ames to Sheridan, WY
Sheridan to Missoula, MT
Missoula to Pierre, SD
Pierre to Ames, IA
3 days of flying. (The stop in Missoula occurs on 04/07/16.)
[Note: there are two redundant entries in the Cirrus Flight Log for this trip — one for the initial leg, one for the return leg from Missoula.]
TRIP #15 — Supplemental Log — 04/21/16
No originating flight logged
Council Bluffs to Ames, IA
1 or 2 days of flying.
[Note: the Iowa Board of Regents met in Council Bluffs on 04/20/16 and 04/21/16. This is the third logged flight which correlates with a board meeting.]
TRIP #16 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 05/06/16 – 05/08/16
Ames to Rogers, AR
Rogers to Ames, IA
2 days of flying.
[Note: no note.]
TRIP #17 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 07/13/16
Ames to Kansas City, MO
Kansas City to Springfield, MO
Springfield to Ames, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: there is a two-month-plus gap between this entry and the preceding trip. Also, on the second stop at Springfield, the plane is only on the ground for 36 minutes, suggesting a passenger being dropped off or picking up.]
TRIP #18 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 07/17/16
Ames to Springfield, MO
Springfield to Ames, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: on this trip the plane returns to Springfield four days after the previous trip, but this time remains on the ground for a robust 48 minutes. One possible explanation for this trip would be that someone was dropped off in Springfield on the 13th was picked up on the 17th.]
TRIP #19 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 08/25/16
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: the plane is on the ground in Rochester for 65 minutes. (For people who don’t know, Rochester is home to the Mayo Clinic, a world-renowned hospital.)]
TRIP #20 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 08/26/16 – 08/30/16
Ames to Jefferson, NC
Jefferson to Champagne/Urbana, IL
Champagne/Urbana to Ames, IL
Trip 14 ends on 08/30/16 – 4th logged trip to NC
2 days flying.
[Note: this and the previous trip represent the only two trips logged within a day or less of each other. This is the fourth logged trip to North Carolina. In the Cirrus Flight Log there is a redundant entry for the return leg.]
TRIP #21 — Flight Log — 09/10/16
Ames to Iowa City, IA
Iowa City to Ames
1 day of flying.
[Note: the Iowa Board of Regents held meetings in Iowa City on 09/07/16 and 09/08/16. Because this entry is dated 09/10/16 it is unclear whether the trip was related to the board meetings, whether the trip was incorrectly logged by Flight Aware, or whether the trip and the board meetings were separate. If this trip did somehow correlate with the board meetings, it would be the fourth such logged trip.]
TRIP #22 — Flight Log/Supplemental Log — 09/23/16
Ames to Muscle Shoals, AL
Muscle Shoals to Ames, IA
1 day of flying.
[Note: these flights are entered incorrectly in the Supplemental Log. Also, I don’t have any idea why Iowa State sent a plane to Muscle Shoals, but it was on the ground for under two hours, as against six hours of flying time.]
Official Unofficial Audit Conclusions
From all of the above, we can reach the following conclusions based on the two Cirrus SR22 flight logs posted by Iowa State on the Flight Services FAQ:
* The span between the first logged flight on 08/22/14 and the last logged flight on 09/23/16 is two years and one month, or approximately 760 days.
* Over those 760 days, the logs show that ISU’s Cirrus SR22 flew on only 32 or 33 days.
* The total number of trips logged — as defined in this post and enumerated above — is 22. Of those 22 trips, it is likely that at least one, two or three were not flown by Leath or anyone at ISU. (The possible original delivery flight in August of 2014; the ferry flight from Bloomington to Pella in September of 2015; and the ferry flight from Pella to Ames, presumably in October of 2015.)
* Of the 20 or so total trips which may have been logged by Leath, 4 involved travel to North Carolina.
* Of the 20 or so total trips which may have been logged by Leath, 3 or possibly 4 correlated with meetings of the Iowa Board of Regents.
* During that same 760 day span, there were 22 meetings of the Iowa Board of Regents.
* The NC trips and the trips correlated with board meetings mean that 7 or 8 of a possible 20 or so trips — or minimally more than one third — are already attributable to Leath.
* Those 7 or 8 trips — NC + regent meetings — also account for 12-14 of the days flown, leaving 20-23 days of flying, or 12 or 13 trips, unaccounted for.
* All told, Iowa State’s Cirrus SR22 sat idle for approximately 730 out of a possible 760 days, including multiple two-month and three-month stretches with no flights logged. After three months without flying, FAA certification requirements would have required that Leath (or anyone else) make one or more solo flights before carrying passengers, thus possibly accounting for several more of the logged trips.
As to who piloted the Cirrus on the remaining unattributed trips, we could advance that inquiry considerably by getting a long look at Leath’s flight log, then comparing his flights with those we know about. Because it is also possible that some of those unattributed trips belong to good friend, good employee, good flight instructor and all around great humanitarian Jim Kurtenbach, he probably ought to turn his flight log over for the same reason. As to the idea that there may be a great many other trips that we don’t know about during that 760-day span, however, perhaps because someone simply forgot to log them for one reason or another, that’s unlikely.
From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 10/15/16:
One obvious point here is that if ISU’s Cirrus SR22 was only used on 30 or so days out of a possible 760, then cost-effectiveness has been in the crapper since the moment it was purchased. Take a $500K outlay, add in maintenance and fuel costs, insurance, hangar fees, and whatever else ya got, and Iowa State’s Cirrus was probably never cost-effective — assuming, again, that there aren’t hundreds of undocumented flights yet to be found.
Now add to that the idea that if Leath himself stops flying the Cirrus — which would immediately cut its usage by one third at a minimum, if not more depending on who logged the remaining unattributed trips — and it should be clear that the Cirrus was not, is not and never will be a cost-effective travel solution at Iowa State. It might be a time-saving solution, of course, particularly for passengers who just need a lift here or there, but that’s not the same thing.
While ISU’s staff pilots could easily certify for the Cirrus if they aren’t already qualified, and probably have hundreds if not thousands of hours in multiple aircraft types, it is telling when Leath says he has more time in the Cirrus than the other three ISU pilots combined — meaning also that it’s unlikely that any of them flew the Cirrus on the remaining unattributed trips. Then again, a quick look through their logbooks would answer such questions, so we should probably collect them as well.
More, from Charis-Carlson’s story:
As noted above, there is only one — singular — trip to a board meeting in Council Bluffs, and there are only two (and perhaps a third) other trips which intersect with board meetings over the entire 760-day span. During that same time there are four documented trips to North Carolina, which means at least half of Leath’s 7 or 8 confirmed trips — and by far the greater majority of confirmed miles and hours flown on those NC trips — have nothing to do with board meetings, little or nothing to do with Iowa State business, and everything to do with taking a half-million-dollar toy for a spin.
Finally, compiling all of the Iowa State pilot logs — Leath, Kurtenbach, the three ISU staff pilots, and anyone else at ISU who has flown that plane — would allow us to determine whether the Cirrus SR22’s costs — which are currently being “billed annually and divided among departments that use the plane” — are proportional to use, or just a sleazy way to make other departments eat the cost of the president’s toy. Because if Steven Leath flew the majority of those trips and miles and hours, then passed off some or all of the costs associated with that plane to other departments, he’s going to be looking for a new job very soon. And that’s apart from whatever he may have been up to on Trip #12, and on Trips #17 and #18.
Update 10/23/16: Regarding the 03/12/16 one-day flight to North Carolina (Trip #12 above), a question on Twitter prompted me to take a look at the King Air 350 flight records for 2016, in order to see what else might have been happening around that date. As it turns out, quite a lot.
One both 03/10/16 and 03/11/16, the ISU King Air flew from Ames to Kansas City and back. On each day, on both flights, the passenger manifest consisted of Pres. Steven Leath, Janet Leath, Miles Lackey, Tara Lackey, and 2 redacted passengers. (The invoices for 03/10/16 appear twice in the .pdf.)
So who are the Lackeys (no pun intended until after you read the following quote)? Well, this should be about cover it:
So what was happening in Kansas City this year, in mid-March, that caused the Leaths, the Lackeys, and 2 redacted individuals to take two round trips to that fair city at an approximate cost to the school of $3,500? Well, as another helpful Twitter comment pointed out, those dates correspond with the Big 12 Basketball Tournament, which Iowa State was indeed part of — right up until they were eliminated on the 10th.
So why did the Leaths, Lackeys and Redacteds go back to Kansas City on the 11th, when Iowa State was no longer playing? Well, I don’t know, but that’s a good question — particularly when Leath bailed on the trip to Madison Square Garden in March of 2014 [see #17], after the Cyclones were knocked out of the NCAA tourney in the first game on that weekend. (Maybe those Big 12 parties are just too good to turn down.)
The very next day, of course, on 03/12/16, someone — presumably President Leath — flew the ISU Cirrus down to North Carolina, fueled up with the propeller running (not really), and flew right back to Ames. Was that Leath dropping off Ms. Leath? Well, that was my earlier thought, but if you look at the next King Air flight, which occurs on 03/15/16, you find that both President and Ms. Leath fly from Ames to North Carolina on that date, meaning it’s likely she was in Ames all along. On the other hand….
Did you know that the Lackeys, like the Leaths, are long-time residents of North Carolina? Yes, it’s true — which means one other possible reason for that 03/12/16 dash to NC and back would be dropping off the Lackeys after they rendered valuable professional services to Iowa State during two days of the Big 12 tournament, even though Iowa State itself only participated for one. (Additional NC-grade Lackey gossip here.)
Oh — and about that trip from Ames to NC on 03/15/16…that turns out to be the first leg of a multi-day, multi-stop trip from Ames to NC to Pittsburgh to Denver to Ames. As to what particular business purpose the stop in NC accomplished I don’t know, but I’m sure it was absolutely critical to the school, and not at all just convenient for the Leaths, meaning over and above the fact that they didn’t have to eat the $3,000 cost themselves.
If you want a real puzzler, however, I’ve got one for you, and I am completely baffled as to what it means. On 03/25/16, Leath and his wife, and Kelly Hanfelt, and 2 redacted (meaning, presumably, a different 2) flew on the King Air 350 from Ames to Chicago (Midway). On the exact same date, 03/25/16, the Cirrus logs show that plane flying from Ames to Chicago (Rockford). The very next day, 03/26/16, Leath and his wife and the 2 Redacteds fly from Chicago (Midway) back to Ames. On the exact same date, 03/26/16, the Cirrus flight logs show that plane flying from Chicago (Rockford) back to Ames.
And no, I have no idea how that’s even remotely possible. The King Air records are presumably accurate, and there’s no way to jam five people into a Cirrus, so it looks like both planes — for whatever reason — flew to approximately the same spot on this very big planet, then flew home again the next day. About the only thing I can say for sure is that the full audit of all ISU flights since Leath took office is going to give someone a headache.
Update 10/24/16: It cannot be emphasized enough that at no time have any of the ISU staff pilots come forward or been made available to corroborate anything that has been said by ISU President Leath, or by anyone in the ISU Department of University Relations. That is particularly important with regard to Leath’s insistence that he was not the one who ordered the King Air 350 to stop in Horseheads, NY in March of 2014 to first pick up, then drop off, his relatives. It is generally important with regard to ISU’s flight ops because the staff pilots could immediately clarify who among them has hours (if any) in the Cirrus SR22.
As to who is allowed to fly either of ISU’s plane, I finally found that in the 2016 insurance policy (p. 5), which was posted on the ever-evolving ISU Flight Services FAQ:
Crandall, Stewart and Hurst are all currently employed as staff pilots at Iowa State. Ryan Campbell and Sean Davis are both flight instructors for the Des Moines Flight Club, and hold a type rating for the King Air 350, so they presumably function as back-up pilots.
As noted in the insurance policy, all five of the above pilots are covered to fly both the King Air 350 and the Cirrus SR22. ISU President Leath is only covered to fly the Cirrus, and only if his IFR rating remains current.
In the context of the King Air an Cirrus flights to and from Chicago (Midway and Rockford, respectively), on 03/25/16 and 03/26/16, if Leath was a passenger in the King Air on that day, then one of the other five covered pilots must have been flying the Cirrus, and that pilot’s log book would confirm that flight. As to why that trip was taken, however, any why it mirrored Leath’s flights in the King Air, I remain completely baffled.
1. The most important ‘leak in all this is likely the malfeasance and misuse of the ISU foundation. If Leath and ISU fired 2 honest and diligent foundation mangers (http://www.dmcityview.com/civic-skinny/2016/10/21/your-isu-alumni-dollars-at-work/ at exorbitant expense) over the past 3-4 years, with obvious legal consequences then one should suspect misuse of that fund bigly. The use of the ISU foundation to buy the King Air may be the tip of the iceberg.
2. That ISU foundation needs independent audit for malfeasance and tax irregularities. Interesting slushy manipulations of that fund may come ut.
3. Leath himself, using ISU and using the ISU foundation as hie personal nonprofit, billionaire slush fund has tremendous tax irregularities if not tax evasion.
Leath, using the King Air (maybe the Cirrus) personally (which is admitted) is receiving personal financial benefits from a nonprofit. Therefore Leath should report that on his income taxes (he obviously wants to avoid that by working with the nonprofit foundation). And Leath owes income tax on these benefits.
If they were not reported as such, that should corrected with penalty.
4. Despite all the promises of transparent accountability of the air logs Leath and ISU obviously obfuscate that log.
5. Rastetter is attempting to pivot away from an audit of the ISU foundation in his attempt to slap Leath on the wrist. Wonder what Rastetter and the BOR has to hide?
6. Lastly, The BOR attorney calling Iowa Eunuch AG Miller is an obvious attempt to put a lid on this scandal. There is something big going on, enough that Conelly and the BOR, Rastetter, and Leath want suppressed.
This is so much like Watergate, or Chris Christie’s Bridgegate, or any other big Govt scandal it is frightening.
Follow the money….
My take on how this kind of thing plays out is that at some point everyone agrees that if the person who’s caught in the spotlight will simply agree to slink away, then nobody will say anything bad or press charges or otherwise prolong what everyone will describe as embarrassment but is really their own vulnerability to suspicion.
In that context I can’t think of anyone who has more on the line now than Rastetter, so it would seem beneficial to him to get rid of Leath. But Leath has already signaled that he’s not interested in leaving, and he’s not being shy about putting heat on Rastetter as well. (Ratting Rastetter out for having been intimately involved in the land deal between them, after Rastetter said he was not involved in the press, is one step short of open warfare.)
My guess is that Rastetter gave Leath assurances that he would sound forceful at the board meeting, but then work behind the scenes to protect him. But if you’re Leath, how confident are you going to be that Rastetter won’t sell you out to take the heat off himself — which is considerable, and could turn white-hot.
What Rastetter has wanted to avoid at all costs is the stench from any of his corrupt acts backing up like sewage into the board itself, but it’s there now. He responded by pretending to be outraged, but that’s not going to make the stink go away. In fact, the only sure-fire way to make the stink go away, at least at ISU, is to make Leath go away, which of course leads directly to money.
How much will Rasetter have to give Leath in order to make Leath go away quietly, instead of Leath going ballistic and suing Rastetter and the board? I don’t think there’s any doubt that Leath could be fired for cause and that it would hold up in court, but to get to that legal victory Rastetter would have to be willing to end up spattered with plenty of filth himself, and I don’t see the squeaky-clean president of the board putting up with that.
Ergo, the most likely outcome is that Leath will be let go without cause, meaning Rastetter will have resolved his own exposure by giving Leath a $2M taxpayer buyout that Rastetter could have precluded by firing Leath for cause.
It is SOP that CEOs demand all kinds of perks. The appointment to CEO reaffirms that a person is a brilliant. invaluable asset to an organization. Therefore in this environment of privilege and entitlement, a CEO will grab huge salary, ton of perks, golden parachutes, while screwing over investors or employees.
How often have we seen this from the big banks to H-P to Bernie Madoff. It is SOP for big business, also now known as big university.
Leath has a ton of political allies from Branstad to Rastetter. They protect him, obviously as a BOR call, leashed the AG dog from investigating Leath.
This would suggest that the corruption reaches deep into ISU, the BOR, and the state Gov’t.
Leath looks like a Chistie sort of guy, only a bit nicer. He becomes outraged, tries to intimidate, then when those tactics don’t work he becomes penitent. But he hasn’t shown himself to be a quitter.
I do not see Leath going quietly…..unless there is a huge payout. His job and perks must reach 1.5-2.0 M a year. And he knows alot of dirt.
The BOR and the state appears to be almost immune to citizen and press pressure. They may talk some, but continue the same old behaviors.
The only threat to this crony club would be federal intervention. Either tax irregularities, or obstruction of justice (a reach I know, because there is no known investigation).
The issue to bring down Leach would be the tax dodging by manipulation of his perks thru a nonprofit foundation…something that attracts federal attention. Otherwise every Leath insult is defended by some big donor, by a LTE..
The big issue that might bring more people down would be calling off the assistant AG. That call had to be a team effort between the BOR attorney, BOR exec Bob Connolly, Leach, Bruce Rastetter, and in bowing to pressure Tom Miller…maybe more.
If emails (and I would believe they have learned not to use email) or calls, or meetings, can be found implicating all of these in a cover-up that would have federal ramifications then an honest investigation might be accomplished.
Right now, with the corrupt Branstad administration dominating the state, I don’t see an honest inquiry happening between the Mississippi and the Missouri.
There are a couple of lenses here. On your point about corruption in Iowa, yes — it’s entrenched, and I don’t see that changing in a decade, and that’s assuming anyone actually tries to fight it. (I don’t see any serious attempt.)
I made a joke a long while back about Iowa becoming the next New Jersey or Louisiana, but the joke is on me because it already is. When the AG can beg off investigating state-level corruption by claiming that investigations have to be initiated at the county level, the entire government is functioning without oversight.
Which of course leads to your point about the feds, and I agree there as well. It’s unlikely that the feds will have cause to intervene, however, because if there’s one thing the crooks in Iowa government are good at, it’s not crossing those lines. Having said that, I don’t think legality is the key dynamic in play.
If you think about sports, head coaches are fired all the time not because they break a law, but because they commit the much greater sin of putting an embarrassing team on the field (perhaps by refusing to break enough laws). Win a lot of games, as Art Briles showed at Baylor, and it doesn’t matter if your team is stacked with rapists who turn your campus into a sexual predator’s hunting ground — you’re going to be supported right up to the corrupt president’s office, to say nothing of behind the scenes by the big donors who control the school’s pocket strings,
Iowa State is just another university. There are hundreds of them in the U.S. — thousands if you throw in colleges public and private. But even though ISU is just another school, the people who care about ISU really care. They care so much, in fact, that instead of using their donor money to feed starving children, they use it on things like buying a $3.5M King Air 350 for the school, after which they work around the rules to slip that sweet glistening machine to the new president in exchange for considerations we’ll never know about.
The reason people are willing to blow millions on an airplane and not on starving kids, however, is not because they love Leath, but they believe he will bring all sorts of completely hollow and utterly meaningless qualities to the school, like prestige and honor and pride. Which is to say that much of what’s currently in play is not legal, but emotional — narrative even, in terms of how that community, or any higher-ed community, sees itself.
That’s why I think the donor class is key. If their scruffy-faced president has suddenly become an embarrassment — a stain — then it’s not going to matter what the law says or what Rastetter or Brandstad wants, because on their best days they’re only playing on such narratives themselves. In the hearts of people who have decided, for whatever reason, that they care about ISU as an object — as a trophy, as a lawn ornament or a bangle, or an attribute of their own identity — Steven Leath is now a man passing gas among people who do not even acknowledge their own bodily functions.
I know universities who called local constables when they thought there were irregularities…in finances.
I know universities who faced large federal charges, who manipulated their way out of it, by going to US Senators.
The keys to stopping corruption at this level would be two:
1. Ethical concerns. Honest citizens wish an honest organization. Unfortunately that is almost never the motivation for stopping corruption at a high level.
2. Politically ambitious prosecutors or officials want to make a name for themselves. Local and state ambitions,maybe higher..
Rudy Giuliani is the patron saint of the politically ambitious prosecutor. Maybe Elliott Spitzer too.
Both were in a state with a high corruption environment because of money and power, and organized crimes etc. They took on power because of ego and ambition.
Giuliani is now a demented old grouchy lying pervert, but at one time he took on the Mafia, cause he could get his reputation out there, for political gain.
Tom Miller is not going to run for governor. The Story Co prosecutor is not going to run for Mayor of NYC. Therefore they will be in hiding from this corruption, rather than risk retaliation (as Leath, Rastetter, and Branstad have proven they are capable of retaliation)
So the next man in, is someone in a federal agency who is accountable and who gets pissed off at malfeasance, tax evasion, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and racketeering.
Fraud like this includes Medicaid, Medicare, federal loans, misuse of federal grants etc. Those things really piss off the feds. Like at Trump U.
I believe it would take an ambitious (or obsessive) agent of the GAO, or another federal watchdog to become indignant at the malfeasance and the corruption going on at ISU and the BOR, using either federal funds or nonprofit foundation funds.
The FBI could easily be involved; this is interstate crime: took place in different states, and the ISU accepts federal monies.
Feds may be interested:
1. If there is a connection between federal grants, or fed loans.
2. If there are funds from nonprofits providing benefits there are IRS irregularities.
3. If there is evidence of obstruction of justice at the BOR and AG levels
The FBI loves domestic fraud cases.
Federal attorneys love racketeering charges (fairly easy to prove).
The GAO loves to prove its’ worth in fraud cases.
The IRS likes public cases to prove they do something.
Someone of standing needs to get the feds to start sniffing around.
Interesting that Ames falls in the Southern District of Iowa. The Fed Attn for the North of Iowa is Ken Techau, who grew up in Iowa City, and just might be related to someone in power on UIowa faculty (IDK).
The Fed Attn for the South of Iowa is Kevin E. VanderSchel.
Maybe he should be interested in all this…
The feds become interested — very interested — when you’re ******* around with student loan and Pell-grant money, and when there’s impropriety to do with federal research grants.
The student-loan thing is important because the Dept of Ed is really just waiting to start running grades 13-16. The thing propping that up is student-loan angst, but universities now have to report what they’re doing and the students’ performance at a rate and level that’s an entirely new thing, and it’s essentially a variant of NCLB. A large part of the issue, though, is that this is a lot of money. A lot. And the feds want it back, and they want it back with some fairly rapacious interest. And if your students aren’t getting through school because you’re looting your school, the feds do not want to be the suckers shelling out for kids who aren’t going to make it through and are going to default on their loans (and make Pell look stupid, too).
That’s not just DoEd, it’s Treasury. It appears, over the last few years, that they’re not playing, either. They will shut you down if you **** them.
So — depending on what the various audits and investigations come up with, especially once the regulatory gaze falls on UI and UIHC — it could get interesting.
Also, apparently they have not learned not to use email, since Leath’s sophistication in sneaking around extended all the way to using his gmail account for dealing with the plane.
You’re right, the fed do not appreciate any screwing with their monies. (and I wonder why they let Branstad screw with medicaid money…who is protecting him?)
What about the FBI? I do not know the extent of their responsibilities. I do know there are two types of FBI agents:
1. the goofy type of la school grads who seem to be good at the books but not at interactions with humans
2. the vicious obsessive type who are about one step removed from some of the criminals they pursue…climbers and ambitious types
There seems to be enough fraud here to grab someone looking for a career boost with significant financial recovery to give a damn about.
These guys are often running around trapping doctors who over-bill. How about a university president who defrauds his school, then coordinates a cover-up of same.
Wow. Just wow.
These guys are even stupider than I’d imagined. It’s amazing how it just doesn’t bottom out. You also know that there’s a ring of reasonably competent university types standing back from the whole state for the last several years and saying “yeah, don’t go there”. Wonder why the OSU guy wasn’t in the loop, unless he’s a crook himself.
So we’re saying that on average, Leath’s flights cost something over $10K apiece, meaning he really needed to’ve ordered that sucker in gold. No wonder they’re friendly with Trump.
We’re also saying, as tv’s said above, that the media will be pulling up shortly to the ISU Foundation with a handful of FOIA, if they haven’t already. Which means we’ve got some lawsuits ahead and a, what do they call it, troubled fundraising environment. Stay tuned for the regents/leath blaming media troublemakers for loss of scholarships and tuition increases.
The other thing here is that this is all so sketchy and amateurish that I suspect they actually had no idea how to do this in any legit manner at all. That Rastetter told Leath to just go ahead and buy it as though Leath was his son-in-law down the carlot. And they just assumed that nobody would look into this or care.
Resignations any day, man. I think they’re also going to be really, really surprised when federal investigators show up.
While Rastetter is the key power broker, my take on this is ultimately that the donor class will decide whether Leath goes or stays. If he had set out to do so he couldn’t have put his foot in it worse timing-wise, because right when Foley broke the story ISU launched their big $1B (already partially funded) fundraising drive.
Are the big-name donors at ISU generally happy with Leath, either for realz, or because he does what they tell him? Or has Mr. Warmth rubbed them the wrong way at times? The speed with which Gartner went after Leath is pretty impressive, as is the degree to which he advanced the story in doing so. (As noted in the post, that King Air is now up to about $3.5M, which is $1M more than originally reported.)
No matter how you slice it, Leath has embarrassed the school, and for what? Not only could he have handled the accident on the up-and-up, rendering it neutral at the time, but if he would have just had that little extra bit of personal restraint, he could have done without the Cirrus altogether. But he had to have his big-shot toy, and all the other sexy fly boy perks, like picking up and dropping off his relatives at Horseheads in the King Air.
(Also, as Bleeding Hearland reported, the state auditor — as opposed to the board’s in-house auditor — is also taking a look, and my impression is that her department doesn’t kid around. Whatever they look at, if they find anything hinky a report will land with the AG, and then we can all watch Tom Miller decide if he can duck that responsibility as well.)
There’s a certain irony, incidentally — not a new one, just an irony — in this all coming out when university staffs have had their accounts crawled all over for the last couple of years for buying a box of staples from the wrong vendor, things like that. I guess not everybody’s subject to TIER.
The lax billing practices for the Cirrus, the fact that it is billed to multiple departments when only the president’s office seems to use the plane, and the annual and total cost of ownership when finally calculated, are going to look, horrendously bad.
ISU could divulge the maximum possible number of people who have flown that plane since it was purchased simply by giving the names of the people who are covered by the applicable insurance policy, but to my knowledge they have not done so. We know Leath is covered, but what about Kurtenbach?
The reason I ask is that weird window where he’s supposedly training Leath like crazy, but there are no flights logged. Did they have to use a different Cirrus SR22?
And if the other ISU pilots aren’t on that policy, that’s game over, because the FAQ clearly states that both planes were bought for all departments at the school.
I expect that recordswise and insurancewise it’s a total cluster**** and that there’s a lot that’s never been written down. I’m talking straw-between-the-teeth yee-haw. No need of rules and regs when you’re with friends.
You may have noticed that there are a lot of lawsuits lately being settled by UIHC, and my guess is that among all the other horrors going on, there’s a cultural battle happening across all three universities. The culture when I got here was very, very by-the-book. Even when it made no sense, a rule is a rule is a rule. That is not how these guys operate, and they seem to push pretty hard on underlings with keys, either corrupting or forcing them to go along with the good-ol-boy mode. If that’s so, once it goes below a certain level it becomes part of the education we’re offering. If we’re not there already I bet we’re close.
And I bet that’s what Gartner (Gartner!) is pointing at. I bet the depth of it’s shocked even him.
Not to mention the lawsuits filed about 1st and 14th amendment rights.
What is this, ISU makes students sign agreements before their diploma is awarded. Basically gag agreements?
And meanwhile, Merit employees at UI have a 10% increase in what they’ll pay for health insurance for their families next year.
Yeah, Dormouse, tell the merit employees to stop whining. Leath has a cool 50,000 music system on that King Air, with a real time GPS display for passengers (so they are not bugging the damn pilots all the time….’are we there yet?’). They get an 80,000 system for internet in flight which costs around 2000 a month in fees.
So those merit employees could simply relax on Air Leath and let their troubles flow out…
How much is the King Air being used to recruit athletes? That entertainment system would make sense to Jamie Pollard if you are trying to impress 17 year old basketball players. (ISU has a record of recruiting elite players who have been dismissed from other teams for disciplinary reasons and then they screw up in Ames.)
If you cycle through the King Air invoices until you’re eyes start to bleed, you notice a spike in sports-affiliated usage exactly when you would expect to see it, but it’s concentrated and relatively short. Hoiberg a few trips, Rhodes a few trips, Prohm a few trips, all in clusters.
Other than that, it doesn’t look like the King Air sees heavy usage for athletics. (There are some other flights with redacted students athletes traveling six or so at a time, but also in concentrated clusters. No regular use.
As breaking news unfolds it is important for the press to speak to key players in order to keep the public informed about the what and why of a story. As a story progresses, however, and new information comes to light, it is also important to go back to earlier reporting to make sure prior comments still make sense and hold up. The following exchange is from ISU President Steven Leath’s extensive interview with Iowa State Daily on 10/05/16:
So we’re clear — that’s ISU President Steven Leath, on 10/05/16, stating that he never used the Cirrus SR22 (the small plane) for purely personal reasons; any time he did use the Cirrus for mixed-use reasons he reimbursed the school for the entire trip; and he never, ever used the King Air 350 (the big plane) for anything other than one-hundred percent pure business trips.
As noted in the prior post, however, it’s quite likely that Leath not only did use the Cirrus for purely personal reasons, but that he also did not reimburse the school for all of his mixed-used trips in the Cirrus. To that point, one of the more interesting aspects of Leath’s statements above, with regard to the Cirrus, is his assertion that “I would get the bill and usually pay it the next day.”
From the ISU Flight Services FAQ [#15]:
That specific assertion about billing practices for the Cirrus was corroborated by the recently completed cursory review of travel practices (p. 4) at the state’s three schools:
Now, if Leath really did get a bill the next day every time he flew the Cirrus, that would be super-great because those bills would allow us to compile the same sort of detailed records which exist for the King Air 350, but have heretofore been entirely missing with regard to the Cirrus. (Someone should definitely ask Leath about those bills that he got the next day, including who sent them, how they were delivered, and why he is apparently the only person who ever saw them.)
For the purposes of this post, however, we are going to focus on Leath’s assertion that he wasn’t just tooling around in the King Air 350 by himself, or with his wife:
At the time Leath made that statement, only two short weeks ago, he knew that at least one reporter had at least some of the flight records for the King Air 350, so it makes sense that he might have been wary about making claims that could easily be disproved. On the other hand, it’s likely that he also never imagined that only one week later, on 10/12/16, all of the King Air 350 invoices for 2014, 2015 and 2016-to-date would be posted online. Because as it turns out, Leath’s claim that he “very rarely” took the King Air 350 either alone or only with his wife is not true.
The following invoices are for King Air trips that Leath either took by himself or only with his wife. Not included, but accounted for later, are flights Leath took with one other person who was not his wife, which also happened on more than one occasion.
It should also be noted that except for the first flight in the list — on 07/03/14 — all of the following flights occurred after Leath blew half a million dollars of discretionary ISU funds on the Cirrus SR22. Why is that important? Well, the more economical Cirrus only seats four (one pilot and three passengers maximum), while the more-expensive-to-operate King Air 350 seats twelve (two pilots and ten passengers, because ISU always flies the King Air 350 with two pilots). With both planes available to him, and being a seasoned, IFR-qualified Cirrus pilot himself — with more hours in type than all of the other ISU pilots combined — it would stand to reason that any time Leath himself, or Leath and his wife, or maybe even Leath and three other random people were going somewhere, they would take the Cirrus instead of the King Air 350 for the cost savings , what with how tight the budgets are at all of the regent schools.
From Iowa State Daily on 10/03/16:
While Leath can — and just did — raise tuition and fees on ISU’s students, with more increases already on deck, including proposals for differential tuition between programs, and socking juniors and seniors with higher rates because why not, and increasing fees another 5% or more, let’s look at how frugal ISU’s president has been in his travels over the past two years and four months. (The invoices for 2014 begin on 04/04/14, when the new King Air 350 was put into service.)
2014 KING AIR FLIGHTS WITH STEVEN LEATH AND/OR JANET LEATH
07/03/14 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to N. Wilkesboro, NC
N. Wilkesboro to Ames, IA
09/21/14 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Champagne, IL
Champage to Concord, NC
10/07/14 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to State College, PA
10/09/14 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
State College to Ames, IA
2015 KING AIR FLIGHTS WITH STEVEN LEATH AND/OR JANET LEATH
01/27/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Des Moines, IA
Des Moines to Manassas, VA
Manassas to Ames, IA
06/10/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Helena, MT
Helena to Ames, IA
[Note: on 07/14/15, Steven Leath put the Cirrus SR22 out of commission for over two months by slamming it into a runway at the Bloomington, IL airport. At that point Leath would not have had the option of flying the ISU Cirrus, but he could have rented a Cirrus at considerable savings compared to using the King Air 350.]
07/23/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames
07/29/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames
07/30/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames
[Note: after his accident on 07/14/15, Leath makes three King Air trips, alone, to Rochester, MN, in the following sixteen days. As noted in the previous post, Rochester is home to the world-fame Mayo Clinic, yet as has been repeatedly asserted by Leath, and as clearly stated in the FAQ [#24], “no injuries occurred” in the accident.]
08/07/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Morgantown, WV
Morgantown to Ames, IA
08/10/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Morgantown, WV
08/11/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Morgantown to Ames, IA
09/09/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Waterloo, IA
Waterloo to Ames, IA
09/20/15 — Janet Leath
Ames to Casper, WY
09/24/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Cedar Rapids, IA
Cedar Rapids to Ames, IA
[Note: on or about 10/09/15 the Cirrus is finally repaired and returned to service. Both of the Cirrus flight longs, however, show no flights for another four moths.]
10/13/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames, MN
10/15/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames, MN
10/18/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Manassas, VA
10/19/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Manassas to Ames, IA
10/28/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Indianapolis, IN
Indianapolis to Ames, IA
11/12/15 — Steven Leath
Ames to Chicago, IL
Chicago to Des Moines, IA
Des Moines to Ames, IA
11/15/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Indianapolis, IN
11/17/15 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Indianapolis to Ames, IA
12/06/15 — Steven Leath
San Antonio to Des Moines, IA
Des Moines to Ames, IA
2016 KING AIR FLIGHTS WITH STEVEN LEATH AND/OR JANET LEATH
[Note: according to the flight logs provided by ISU, on 02/10/16 the Cirrus SR22 takes to the skies for the first time in four months, following repairs to the plane. Not counting two ferrying flights that were not flown by Leath, the Cirrus is effectively idle for seven months. On possible explanation for that lapse in use after the airplane was fixed is that Leath suffered an injury which had to resolve before he was cleared to fly.]
02/17/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Des Moines, IA
Des Moines to Ames, IA
03/08/16 — Steven Leath
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames, IA
03/15/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Jefferson, NC
03/16/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Jefferson to Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh to Omana, NE
Omana to Denver, CO
03/19/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Denver to Ames, IA
04/03/16 — Janet Leath
Ames to St. Paul, MN
St. Paul to Ames
04/16/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Manassas, VA
04/19/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Manassas to Ames, IA
04/25/16 — Steven Leath
Ames to Fort Worth, TX
04/26/16 — Steven Leath
Fort Worth to Ames, IA
06/01/06 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Jefferson, NC
Jefferson to Dallas, TX
06/03/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Dallas to Ames, IA
08/03/16 — Steven Leath
Ames to Indianapolis, IN
08/04/16 — Steven Leath
Indianapolis to Ames, IA
08/23/16 — Steven Leath and Janet Leath
Ames to Rochester, MN
Rochester to Ames, IA
Although the story of Leath’s accident did not break until 09/23/16, and the compiling of the King Air 350 invoices apparently took place thereafter, the final invoice in the 2016 .pdf is dated 08/25/16. As to whether any of those King Air 350 flights represent mixed-use or purely personal flights, we will have to wait for the full audit to be completed. As to the following assertion from Leath, however, I think you can see the problem:
King Air invoices with Steven Leath and/or Janet Leath only:
2014 — 4 invoices at a cost of $17,608.84.
2015 — 21 invoices at a cost of $58,415.60.
2016 — 15 invoices at a cost of $46,023.64.
Total invoices with only Steven Leath and/or Janet Leath: 40.
Total cost: $122,048.08.
On top of the 40 trips that Leath took by himself or with his wife in the King Air, there are another 14 or so where he travels with one other person, and more where he travels with two or three others who would have fit in the Cirrus — though I would not wish the backseat in a single-engine plane on anyone. Over two years and four months, a minimum of 54 trips were flown by ISU President Steven Leath — a fully qualified pilot in the school’s Cirrus SR22 — in which the King Air 350 traveled with eight empty seats or more, and there were many more flights where the King Air was carried four passengers or less with Leath included, meaning those flights could have been taken in the Cirrus as well.
While there are other King Air flights where only one or two passengers are flying, because those passengers are not Leath — and presumably not pilots themselves — we’ll consider that normal waste. What is not normal is for ISU President Steven Leath to buy himself a zippy $500K single-engine airplane, then still insist on taking 40 trips in the King Air 350 at a cost of $122K, when he could have flown the Cirrus at considerable savings. But that is exactly what Steven Leath did, and he knew he had done so when he said this:
Total number of King Air 350 invoices (not including zeroed-out ‘Flight Services’ invoices) between 04/14 and 08/16: 240
Invoices with Steven Leath listed on the passenger list: 94
Distribution of highest number of passengers on invoices which include Steven Leath:
Total number of King Air 350 flights Leath could have taken in Cirrus (Leath+3 or less): 76 of 94
Total number of King Air 350 flights, with Leath on board, which required use of that aircraft (Leath +4 or more): 18 of 94
On 40 of 240 total ISU Flight Services invoices between 04/14 and 08/16, either Leath alone or Leath and his wife flew on the King Air 350. On 54 of those 240 invoices the King Air flew with Leath only or Leath+1. Among invoices on which Leath appears at all (94 of 240), the percentage of invoices with Leath only or Leath and wife is 43%, and the percentage of invoices with Leath only or Leath+1 is 57%.
Whether you consider that “very rarely” or not, as noted in the prior post the ISU Cirrus SR22 has logged only thirty trips or so (defined somewhat differently) since being purchased by Leath in July of 2014. Because some of those trips may not have been flown by Leath, it is entirely possible that even after making that self-indulgent $500K purchase, Leath and his wife continued to use the King Air 350 as often as the Cirrus, even when Leath was traveling by himself, or only with his wife.
I kind of get the feeling we’re looking at a large distraction.
So the Regents got caught spending major money on a fancy office and fancy salaries; UIHC got caught spending money on fancy furniture; here’s Leath flying around like Liberace. Leath and Rastetter got caught trying to spend ISU money on a nice runway for Bruce’s corporate plane. These guys have had their hands in the till for themselves for years, is what we’re looking at —
and yet I don’t think that’s where the big money is. Because this is just recreational and “I deserve all this and it’s minor next to the scale of — ” something else.
I don’t think it’s about the CHI, either. Or the stadium.
I kind of don’t even think it’s about deals for the state GOP, though that’s no doubt in the mix.
What else does Bruce spend big on? And all that loan money that’s come in from the bonds — do we know it’s actually been spent on the things those bonds were issued for? Because that’s serious money for a thrifty little place like Iowa, and even a minor skim operation would be serious money.
I have a feeling we’re looking at why Bruce can’t afford to get rid of Leath, and why Bruce is “his boss”, and also Terry’s boss. I would not be surprised to find that this is also why Robillard found it convenient to step down, recently.
What you referred to has to be in the range of 15-20 million, just eye-balling it..maybe more..
Do you have some inside info on something bigger?,
As noted in earlier replies, the motive for all of this crony corruption is incidental to me, but clearly the corruption is widespread. Still, it’s an interesting question. Is there an overarching scheme, or are these just a bunch of interconnected acts of stupidity?
Following Occam’s Razor, I tend to go with the stupidity thesis. Take a look at Chris Christie for all you need to know about that, what with kneecapping himself as a presidential candidate because he had to pay back some local politician for disloyalty. There was no big plan there, just a small-minded ethos of bullying and revenge that finally caught up to him.
On the other hand, as you point out, there’s a lot of money running through the Iowa Board of Regents — hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions — and that’s a tempting target for grifters at all levels. So assuming for the sake of argument that there is an attempt to skim, or defraud, or flat-out steal, I agree that it’s up to the feds to get involved, because there is no state-level will to even investigate such crimes, let alone prosecute.
As to how the feds could get involved, I’ve been thinking about that over the past week or two, and I think there’s really only one answer. RICO.
(I noted on Twitter that having concurrent audits into Leath’s flying exploits will make it impossible to sweep his abuses under the rug. Any deviation between the two audits — unless they’re both corrupted in the same way — will raise eyebrows. The simplest solution is for the powers that be to shut down one of the audits under the guise of efficiency, then corrupt the other audit. So that’s what I think the next play will be, because once you start documenting abuses with hard evidence, and digging into the books of an enterprise as big as the BoR in search of that evidence, you never know what you’re going to find.)
RICO’s it, yep.
I don’t think there’s a grand scheme. I think there’s a desperately banal scheme that involves a lot of money passing through a sluice, and Bruce seeing an opportunity to divert some with an accounting sleight-of-hand he’d seen someone else do, with the idea being that sure, you’re going to put the money back sometime, you’re just borrying it. And doing it over and over and somehow the putting-it-back thing gets kicked along down the road and covered by new money coming through, with some to spare for comfortable living. And who knows, maybe even a little investment that could, if necessary, be for the good of the institution or maybe it could yield in someone else’s direction, it just depends which way you turn the nozzle.
Something like that might be right in line with that interest-free loan, which might be another name for outright theft. Or a skim. Or, you know, borrying it. I will gladly pay you Tuesday.
vt, I’ve been wondering about this since I saw the scale of the borrowing UI’s been doing since Rastetter’s been in charge, and the level of concern the BoR seems to have about retention of that bond rating and the “borrowing capacity” still to run. UI’s borrowing is up very sharply since 2000, to something on the order of a billion dollars now. When that much money’s passing through for various building projects, you have to wonder who it’s sticking to.
And when you see so many people at a party behaving badly about money, in somewhat surprising ways — I mean it’s not as though Iowa has a rep for glamor — you realize that these are people having a bit of a money bath. But if you’re stealing money and you’re where these people are, you don’t steal money just to have a money bath and buy a sweet sound system or whatever. The money bath is incidental to the real theft. It’s…spillage.
Which is why I wonder about a skim.
1. It is interesting that most scandals break with inside info. Leath’s land-grab was tipped off by a local farmer who put 2 and 2 together. Who tipped off Ryan Foley to Air-Leath.
(btw, Foley is doing incredible work on this and on the child stories)
2. The corruption at the state, BOR, university, local level in Iowa appears to be driven by these guys who feel all this money on education, medical care, Govt agri-grants, research grants, nonprofit donations would look great in their bank accounts. No over-riding plans, but when preparation (mind set) meets opportunity.
Leath, no doubt, feels he works his arse off for the school, and thus he should reap rewards: big salary, air-travel like a billionaire, etc, etc.
Harreld must feel as the key person in turning round IBM (heh heh) he deserves the spoils of plum job running a university (though he knows nothing of how to do it).
Rastetter came up the ranks of grabbing federal funds for his land, for ethanol, for agri-business, and was hooked on the money and subsequent power.
The other GOP and crony operatives likely feel all of the same. They work so hard and are so smart they deserve no-bid contracts, and no-ad jobs. After all they are the smartest guys in the room.
It seems to be a rule that the massive entitlements go to the rich and arrogant….and not the poor and disadvantaged.
It is a bedrock principle of the ‘ownership society’ ideology that all government monies should be funneled through private hands. You see that with Branstad’s recently implemented Medicaid abuses, and you saw GWB try the same thing with the massive federal fire hose of cash that is Social Security.
The key advantage in that kind of abuse is that everything is legal, yet private parties make out like bandits. (For example, instead of getting X percentage return on your retirement money from the government, you get Y from a private broker or money manager, minus a whole bunch of fees that go right into their pocket.)
You can see the same dynamic at work at ISU in this story from Ryan today:
That’s $300K that ISU spent to fix up a plane it then sold a year later — meaning not only did some business profit from that $300K, but so did whomever bought the upgraded plane, even if the new avionics increased the sales price commensurately.
Ryan also points out that along with that expenditure —
— ISU came right back and blew another $300K for an avionics upgrade to the new (used) King Air —
— meaning someone got to sell $600K in avionics to ISU, plus another $130K in entertainment gadgetry, plus installation fees, services fees, etc
It all just looks like a few line items in a ledger, but all of that money made someone(s) in the private sector very happy. (I’m guessing they upgraded the avionics in the old plane not simply to make it easier to sell, but because they already had a buyer and that person wanted the avionics upgraded — so ISU did it for them, and got to determine who got that money in the process.)
So – who sold all of those avionics to ISU, who bought the old plane, and did they flip it to someone else?
Elliott Aviation of Des Moines, Quad Cities, Milwaukee delivered the upgrade:
Thanks for the pointer — I’m having trouble keeping up with all the information that keeps slinking onto that FAQ….
Also, note the $27K custom ‘Cyclone’ paint job on p. 17.
Somebody really wanted that plane tricked out….
Interesting too that the AG staffer (who doesn’t seem to be named anywhere) made the records request of Bloomington the day the news broke. That’s somebody ready to go, and I would not be surprised to find that there are people in AG offices as well as all over ISU (and UIHC and UI) who have a pretty good idea of what’s going on, aren’t at all happy about it, and are just waiting to be asked the right questions.
I agree — there are people who would like to fight this crony culture, but they’re being impeded by everyone from Branstad to AG Miller to Rastetter and on and on.
I think there are also a lot of people who would like to talk, and point investigators in the right direction, and I think there are even more people who would like to go back to the old business model predicated on dotting i’s and crossing t’s, leaving all of this newfangled entrepreneurial garbage to the private sector where it belongs.
All colleges and universities have always had a business office. What’s changed is not the idea of running a school like a business, but running a school like a for-profit business in every regard. Enter J. Bruce Harred in the guise of the transformative genius, who of course gets suckered by his bro-code values and watching Ferentz beating up on a weak schedule in a contract year, only to load the coach up with the same kind of poison pill contract fans were screaming about for a decade.
Yeah, those bro-code values.
Thing is, when you look back at Jim Bruce’s career, he really hasn’t been in a situation like this before, and I kind of wonder how hot things have to get before he decides Robillard had the right idea. IBM, Chicken Monster, his fraternity, Boston Consulting…these are all private outfits, and so long as you haven’t made serious enemies along the way, the worst that happens is some sad private rich guy sues you. It’s not like SEC’s going to want to get off its duff and investigate you even when you’re playing obviously ludicrous criminal games in your IPO.
This is different, though, because at least in the public mind there’s still a residual public trust, and because it’s tax money, and because — more importantly — it’s US Treasury money.
These guys are greedy, dumb, and careless enough that all their yelling about how it’s donor money means one of two things:
1. Yes, they’ve looted the Foundation bigly, but they’ve also done it stupidly and on the simple (and incorrect) principle that if it’s Foundation, they can do what they want;
2. No, it’s not just Foundation money and the finances at ISU and perhaps UI look like a frat house the morning after BUT IT’S FINE AND NO ONE NEEDS TO CHECK.
Jim Bruce strikes me as a self-preserving fellow, if not overly bright, and my guess is he’s already started making discreet inquiries about the situation at UI, only with the wrong questions. So I’m guessing he’ll wait until something cracks open publicly over at ISU before he realizes that he’s kind of in deep shit himself, and then he’ll slither on home back to Vail. Family etc.
I would actually understand if someone at ISU answered honestly:
‘you know, we are an ag school stuck in the middle of rural America, trying to put out D-1 football, basketball, and sports programs to compete with Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas in basketball, hell even the Hawkeyes. So when you have cornfields to offer great 17-18 y/o urban athletes from Houston, St Louis, Detroit, a campus of confinement dorms and ag experimental farms doesn’t cut it. So we tricked out this damn plane with awesome stereo, and a killer GPS. For 17 y/os (e even thought about shag carpet, but rejected it) We mean, these guy are worth millions in ticket sales, it is money well spent’
Or how this might impress donors.
You don’t hear this, but it would be more likely an accepted (albeit embarrassing) point.
Rather we see Leath acting like a 17 y/o cruising the town strip for girls (donors), or impressing family members (I swear he has some family in Mananas VA..)
Control of money is so much at stake in academics. Power and control of monies.
I once actually had signatory control of one of these non-profit ‘foundation funds’. I bought toys/game for poor kids and fixed up rooms for sick kids. The powers that be got really pissed off. Although it took them 6 months to figure it out (there are various paths for foundations in academics) they did figure it our then grabbed all the monies for their own purposes.
Why spend non-profit monies on the poor, sick, and needy, when CEOs need new carpet and car leases?
The latest from deep in the UIowa PR dept…
ISU loves Leath. He will never be fired….
On Monday, District Court Judge Robert Blink ruled on a motion to dismiss, in a case brought by former UI administrator Gerhild Krapf against the Iowa Board of Regents. From the Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, on 10/24/16:
Specifically, Krapf’s suit alleges that Regents President Bruce Rastetter and four other members of the board (one of whom has since resigned), participated in meetings which were designed to avoid the intent of the Open Meetings law:
By deconstructing a board meeting involving a quorum of the board — meaning five of the nine regents — Rastetter and the other regents involved in those staggered meetings rigged the election in Harreld’s favor over a month before the final election. As a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling on the Open Meetings law asserted, however, even meetings which use a proxy (in this case Rastetter, or even Harreld himself), or which take place at staggered times, can still be in violation. From the Press-Citizen’s Jeff Charis-Carlson, on 10/24/16:
One possibility, of course, is that when Rastetter says he was never physically present for any of the meetings, he’s either parsing his words very carefully to allow for electronic eavesdropping or communication, or he’s flat-out lying. On that latter point — and in contrast to what we knew a year ago when those secret meetings were first reported — we now know that on at least two occasions Bruce Rastetter has lied to the press and the people of Iowa to cover up for his own misconduct, and in one of those instances the lie that he told specifically relates to the secret regent meetings that Rastetter arranged for four regents and J. Bruce Harreld.
As noted in a prior post, during an extensive interview with the Des Moines Register on 03/22/16, Rastetter asserted that the meetings he arranged for Harreld alone among all the candidates for president at Iowa would have been made available to any other candidate who asked, even though no other candidates were apprised of the availability of such meetings. That lie is confirmed by the fact that the ongoing presidential search at UNI – which is co-chaired by one of the regents who participated in Rastetter’s secret regent meetings with Harreld — has at no point asserted the same candidate right.
As you may also know, when the crony land deal between Bruce Rastetter and Iowa State President Steven Leath came to light this summer, Rastetter distanced himself from that transaction, which involved Rastetter’s own company, Summit Agricultural Group, fronting $1.15M for a plot of land that Leath could not afford to purchase and subdivide himself. From the Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood, on 07/11/16:
As we learned only three weeks ago, however, that statement by Peterson, on Rastetter’s behalf, which Rastetter never corrected, was a flat-out lie. From Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley, on 10/06/16:
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Gosh, Mark, why didn’t the routine government investigation of the Rastetter-Leath land deal, or of the secret regent meetings, turn up Rastetter’s lies?” And the answer is, because there is no routine government investigation of anything having to do with the Iowa Board of Regents, no matter how self-evident the abuses of policy, ethics or even law may be. (Despite the fact that the abuses of power during the Harreld hire led to the unprecedented sanction of the University of Iowa by the AAUP, there was never any indication by the Iowa Attorney General’s office, or any other regulatory or law enforcement body in the state, that they were looking into that fraudulent search.)
You can see the crony fruits of this willful bureaucratic infantilism in the scandal surrounding Iowa State President Leath’s use of two aircraft owned by the school. First the AG, then the Story County Attorney (the main ISU campus is in Story County), asserted they could do nothing without findings from a law enforcement investigation. In fact, at the behest of the executive director of the Iowa Board of Regents, the AG went so far as to preclude someone inside his office from investigating on their own. From the Gazette’s Miller, on 10/19/16:
So what about the Story County Attorney? From the Iowa Informer’s Gavin Aronson, on 10/20/16:
Now, it’s not really too surprising that “there was no evidence of a crime” in the files turned over by Sands, given that Sands had just started looking into the matter. It’s also not too surprising that nobody has walked into the Ames police station and reported that ISU President Leath may have violated state law when Leath’s relatives were picked up and dropped of in a state-owned flying machine in March of 2014. And even if by some odd coincidence someone did do exactly that, it’s also not too hard to imagine that the Ames police probably have more important things to do with their time than try to keep crony state-level administrators from pissing away tax dollars.
And yet that’s exactly the scenario that Story Count Attorney Reynolds paints with regard to Leath’s abuses — that a crime needs to be alleged at the county level, even if the entity in question is run by the state, as is clearly the case with Iowa State University. The same also holds, of course, regarding Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, and his failure to investigate the fraud at the heart of the Harreld hire, which not only crossed multiple county lines but state lines as well. Exactly which of Iowa’s 99 counties have the available law enforcement personnel, requisite skill and resources to investigate a long-term, slowly-evolving, multi-jurisdictional conspiracy directed by state employees?
As to Wrong Way Leath’s flying antics, this structural prosecutorial impotence inevitably led to the following quote from the Governor’s spokesman, in a story by the Gazette’s Miller on 10/25/16:
So there you go. After absolutely no investigation whatsoever, the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, and the Story County attorney’s office all agree that Leath did nothing which might warrant any sort of actual prosecution. And that’s true even though, as far as we know, ISU President Leath has never even been asked to turn over his pilot’s log to corroborate statements he has made on the record, and Iowa State’s pilots — who Leath insists compelled his plane to land, twice, at Horseheads, NY, where Leath’s relatives just happened to live — have never been interviewed despite those assertions by Leath.
As a bonus, we now also know how the entrenched corruption at the Iowa Board of Regents took root and grew to a point that the president of the board thought nothing of rigging a $300K+ taxpayer-funded search in favor of a blatantly unqualified candidate. There is, literally, no governmental oversight of the Iowa Board of Regents, and just as clearly everyone in state and county government likes it that way. (It should be noted, however, that none of that precluded AG Miller from hopping-to when the board ordered him to savage a teacher who was unjustly fired, and I can only assume that the Story Count Attorney would be equally eager to comply with any requests made by the board.)
Obviously, this is not the way things work, but if you look around the state of Iowa you see the same willful administrative blindness everywhere. Instead of funding an agency staffed with professionals to make sure that there is no corruption in state government, state officials from the governor on down have put the onus on citizens to report possible violations — if not also to provide direct evidence of those violations — to boards which have often been stocked with crony political appointees. Unfortunately, the only way around such self-sealing administrative corruption is to pierce those defenses with the law itself, but that takes money most people don’t have, which is yet another reason why the politicians and bureaucrats in Iowa have structured state government in just that way. Anything that prevents anyone from being held accountable for their abuses of power in state government is universally seen as good by everyone in state government.
Even back in late July the stonewalling was so apparent that the Des Moines Register gave Attorney General Tom Miller a ‘thistle’ for opposing Gerhild’s search for the truth:
In support of Gerhild Krapf’s suit a GoFundMe campaign was launched to help provide financial backing, and as of today that campaign is well-past halfway to its $5,000 goal. If you would like to donate in support of accountability in state government, and specifically in opposition to the corruption running rampant at the Iowa Board of Regents, you can do so here.
(Donations can be made with a credit card for as little as $5. If you know people who would like to donate who do not have a credit card, consider taking up a collection on their behalf. While online donations cannot be made anonymously, you can have your donation displayed as ‘Anonymous’ on the GoFundMe page by checking the small box just below where you type your name. If you forget, you can change your name to ‘Anonymous’ at any time by following the directions here.)
One more lie: Air-Leath..
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.
hey, you guys know it’s possible to wayback those pages as they come out, right?
Who owns Elliot Aviation?
Headline: Plane carrying Pence skids off runway
I didn’t know Leath piloted the Pence plane…..
seriously folks, only jokin….
On this past Thursday it was reported that a state senator is looking into the legality of two recently disclosed confidential settlements at the Iowa State University Foundation. From the Des Moines Register’s Jayson Clayworth, on 10/27/16:
The first question, obviously, is whether ISU’s Foundation is a “public institution”. In terms of their legal structures, as a land-grant university Iowa State is clearly part of Iowa’s state government. Just as clearly, the ISU Foundation is, legally, a “private non-profit 501(c)(3) organization“.
Yes, you have to dig like a deranged mole to find that declaration on the ISU Foundation website, because the foundation marketing weasels want you to believe that the foundation is part of the university, but as a purely legal matter, ISU and the ISU Foundation are clearly separate legal entities. And yet, the obviousness of that distinction, which everyone reading this post would agree with, does not actually answer the question at hand. Whether ISU and the ISU Foundation are separate legal entities or not, that tells us nothing about whether the foundation’s secret agreements violated state law.
The first part of Hammes’ assertion on the governor’s behalf — that the ISU Foundation is a separate legal entity — is clearly true. ISU is part of state government, while the ISU Foundation is a private company intentionally marketed so as convince all but the most diligent of citizens that it is also part of the university. But note the qualifier in Hammes’ statement: “…and not subject to [Branstad’s] executive order.”
In order to determine whether a separate legal entity such as the ISU Foundation is subject to Branstad’s executive order, we first have to know something about that executive order. Fortunately, even in the deeply corrupt governor’s office, such orders are still made public, so we can actually look at the text for guidance. From the preamble to Governor Branstad’s Executive Order 85:
Again, this couldn’t be clearer. Executive Order 85 pertains to Iowa’s Open Records Act, which means the issue at hand is whether the ISU Foundation, regardless of its standing as a separate legal entity, is subject to Iowa’s Open Records Act, and thus to Executive Order 85. Ideally, of course, what we would hope to find would be pre-existing law which determined not merely that nongovernmental legal entities can be subject to Iowa’s Open Records Act, but that the ISU Foundation in particular is subject to that act.
Like, for example, Gannon vs. Board of Regents, which was decided on 02/04/05 by the Iowa Supreme Court:
Because that case is over ten years old it’s possible that it has been superseded by a subsequent ruling, but I don’t think so, for two reasons. First, although I don’t have the slightest idea how to research case law, I do know that the current legal fault line concerns when donors can request anonymity with regard to Open Record requests made to the foundation, which suggests the ruling in Gannon is still in force. Second, on the ISU Foundation website, the foundation acknowledges that there is a specific legal pathway provided for by the Open Records Act, which allows for the accessing of foundation records:
Following the link in the above quote takes you to a Public Records Requests page on Iowa State’s website — not the foundation’s website — which begins as follows:
Click the “guidelines” link in the second paragraph and you end up on another page of the Iowa State website, titled Seeking access to Iowa State University Foundation public records, which reads as follows:
The warning is clear, and the implication of that warning is obvious. If you fail to make a public records requests of the foundation through the proper channels — meaning through Iowa State University — then the ISU Foundation is free to ignore the Open Records Act and tell you to stuff it. The obvious implication of that warning is that there are instances in which the ISU Foundation is obligated to comply with the Open Records Act, despite being a separate legal entity.
So how can we determine if the two confidential settlement agreements authorized by the ISU Foundation were subject to Iowa’s Open Records Act, and were thus also in violation of Governor Branstad’s Executive Order 85? Well, given the crony players involved, I would imagine the government itself will never admit that the settlement agreements were covered by Executive Order 85, so that means someone will have to haul them into court. (As noted in the prior post, that’s the only remaining avenue for fighting the crony corruption that pervades state government.)
Regarding ISU President Steven Leath, however, and his use and abuse (figurative and literal) of ISU’s Flight Services, that is not the only relevant legal question about how ISU and the ISU Foundation relate to each other. Specifically, not only is Leath the president of the university, but he is also one of the directors of the ISU Foundation. In fact, it is in that latter role that Leath compelled the dismissal of the two former foundation directors, who were then collectively paid more than a million dollars to keep their mouths shut.
From former regents president Michael Gartner, whose name has now been replaced by the nom de plume, “Civic Skinny” on the following CityView webpage, published on 10/21/16:
As to why the foundation would allow one particular board member to serially decapitate the leadership of the board until he found an appropriately deferential individual to do his bidding, well, there is clearly a lot about higher-ed foundations that I do not understand. To an outside observe it almost seems — even though ISU and the ISU Foundation are separate legal entities — that there is some unspoken agreement, like a kind of administrative easement, which says the president of Iowa State University not only receives an automatic seat on the foundation board, but from that seat the ISU president is also empowered to make hiring and firing decisions among the foundation leadership. And of course there’s also the apparent right of the Iowa State president to order himself up a $3.5M airplane using foundation funds, then to use the foundation to pass that asset to the university, thus bypassing regental regulations which may have called that purchase into question, or even prevented it outright. (Here we are admittedly imagining an ideal or model Board of Regents, or even just an average board, as against the current corrupt board.)
Although it was the ISU Foundation which originally bought the King Air 350, that airplane is now entirely owned by Iowa State. It is equally clear that without regard to his use of the school’s other plane — the Cirrus SR22, which he damaged in July of 2015 — that ISU President Leath is steadfast in his assertion that he only used the King Air 350 for purely business purposes. Whether that’s actually true or not — meaning whether Leath did or did not use the King Air 350 for mixed-use trips, or even for purely personal reasons — will hopefully be determined by one or both of the ongoing audits. What is not at all clear, however, is what Leath actually means when he says that all of his trips in the King Air were purely business-related. Does he mean only ISU business, or does he also mean ISU Foundation business?
The reason that distinction is important is because there are tax implications for use of aircraft depending on the nature and purpose of each trip. While it’s entirely possible — if not likely in this case — that IRS guidance has changed on the following question, here’s a sample of how complex the issue can become for someone in Leath’s position. From a 2006 article on the AIN website:
Again, leaving the specifics of current tax law aside, because Steven Leath is both president of Iowa State University, which owns the King Air 350, and a member of the ISU Foundation board — if not also the de facto president of that separate legal entity — it would seem incumbent on Leath to declare when he was using ISU’s King Air for university business, and when he may have used it for foundation business. And in fact, in the billing records for the King Air 350 flights, it does seem that such distinctions were being made.
On 10/28/15, ISU president and ISU foundation board member Steven Leath is the only passenger on a round-trip King Air flight from Ames, IA to Indianapolis, IN. On the invoice, the departmental billing code for that trip is listed as 4971915000070 — as it is on many of the other flights taken by Leath, either alone or with others.
On 12/15/15, the King Air flies round trip from Ames to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The passengers on that trip included Larissa Holtmyer Jones, the putative president and CEO of the ISU Foundation, David Spalding, dean of the ISU College of Business, and ISU president and ISU Foundation board member Steven Leath. For that flight, which includes two top Iowa State administrators, and two top ISU Foundation administrators, with Leath counting as one of each, the billing code is listed as 2061605008000.
Assuming for the moment that the 4971915000070 department code is for the president’s office, how do we determine whether the 2061605008000 code is for the ISU College of Business, the ISU Foundation, or even some other department not represented on the manifest? Well, as it turns out there was an earlier King Air flight which answers that question. On 10/20/15, the only two people on board the ISU King Air were putative ISU Foundation President and CEO Holtmyer-Jones, and Michael Gens, the ISU Foundation’s Executive Director of Development for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Two passengers, both in administration at the ISU Foundation, and again the departmental billing code for that flight was 2061605008000.
On 12/15/15, then, even though one of the passengers on that flight was ISU President Steven Leath, Leath was apparently along for the ride in his role as a member of the ISU Foundation board, and not as ISU’s top administrator. Whether the ISU Foundation is considered a university department for the purposes of billing or not may also have nothing to do with the tax implications for the university or the foundation, or for individuals such as Leath, who wear both hats. In any event, once again we see that although ISU and the ISU Foundation are indeed separate legal entities, it is the specifics of tax law, as with the specifics of the Open Records Act, which determine the importance of interactions between those two legal entities. Just because they are legally distinct as entities, that does not mean they are distinct or indistinct with regard to any particular law. For the purposes of the Open Records Act those two legal entities may be treated as one, while for the purposes of taxation the two may be treated separately.
The pertinent question we’re left with is whether the IRS regards Leath’s use of the King Air 350 for foundation business as personal use, because that would mean Leath’s assertion that he only used the King Air for business purposes was false. What is perhaps most telling, however, is the simple fact that no one actually knows the answer to these questions, and that litigation may be required to compel a resolution. In practice, legal ambiguity actually seems preferable to everyone at ISU and the ISU Foundation because it allows the members of each entity, and particularly members of both entities, to choose the most advantageous interpretation of the ISU/Foundation relationship whenever it suits them. (If this legal ambiguity were not to the mutual advantage of the university and the foundation, it would have been lawyered out of existence long ago.)
I don’t know that anyone definitively knows whether the confidential ISU Foundation settlements were legal or illegal, which is a problem in itself. What I do know is that Steven Leath was heavily involved in pushing for and approving those transactions — either in his role as a director of the foundation, in his role as president of the university, or both. In that instance it is to Leath’s advantage to claim that he was only acting in his capacity as a director of the board (however laughable that assertion might be), thus affirming that the university and foundation are indeed separate legal entities. On the other hand, when it comes to flying himself around on ISU’s King Air 350, it is to Leath’s advantage to treat both of his roles as a single function, so he can claim that all of his flights on ISU’s King Air were for business purposes only.
Whatever else my transpire from the parallel audits which are taking place at the Board or Regents and the State Auditor’s office, and whatever new disclosures may arise in the press, and whatever new disclosures Leath and the good people at the ISU Department of University Relations may inadvertently make while doing their best to pretend to be transparent, it seems to me that ISU President Steven Leath does not get to have it both ways. Either ISU and the ISU Foundation are separate, which means Leath’s flights on the ISU King Air for foundation business were personal in nature, or ISU and the ISU Foundation function indivisibly through Leath, in which case Leath’s foundation activity would fall under the authority of Executive Order 85. So which is it?
Here is an illustrative example of the same problem at the College of DuPage in Illinois.
(from the Columbia Journalism Review)
“‘Public bodies cloaked in a thin private veneer’
The DuPage case isn’t unique—it’s characteristic of efforts nationwide to define, defend, and challenge the legal status of foundations and other entities affiliated with public colleges and universities. At the University of Kansas, for example, the director of the Center for Applied Economics claimed in June that he was not a public employee subject to the state public-records law, because money used to pay him is funneled through the school’s private foundation….
Their significant responsibilities (and occasional bad behavior) have put foundations in the public eye. They’re typically supported by donations rather than taxpayer money, but, as one advocacy group put it, they ”live and breathe through the university umblical cord” as ”public bodies cloaked in a thin private veneer.” With that in mind, should a public university’s private foundation be subject to a state public-records law?
Their significant responsibilities (and occasional bad behavior) have put foundations in the public eye. They’re typically supported by donations rather than taxpayer money, but, as one advocacy group put it, they ”live and breathe through the university umblical cord” as ”public bodies cloaked in a thin private veneer.” With that in mind, should a public university’s private foundation be subject to a state public-records law?
The answer is yes, it should be.”
According to this article in the Quinnipiac Law Review, Iowa determined that a foundation is an extension of the public university and thus subject to disclosure laws:
“According to a review by this author as of early 2015, at least
twenty states (73) had attempted to define the status of public-university
foundations through legislation or case law. (74) In at least eleven of those
states, (75) the attempts favor the position that such foundations are
extensions of public universities, or otherwise should be subject to
(75) Alabama, California, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee. See infra Table 1”
Several interesting issues:
1. Leath crashed that smaller Cirrus in Illinois on Jul 14, 2015. The story says he and Janet were picked up in Illinois and toted back to Ames. I do not see anything on the flight log for Jul 14-15-16 involving Leath.
2. About 9 days after his crash, Leath an wife fly to Rochester MN, 3 times over 7-8 days. Jul, 23, 29, 30. There may be one other day in 2015.
Why? The Mayo Clinic is there. But 3 times? The crash is a little more than what ISU is letting on…double wing damage, tail damage, runway damage.
So why the Mayo Clinic if you have acute injuries you go to local ER. This is 8-9-10 days post then two weeks or more later.
Concussion. Seems to me that a pilot in a crash is going to hit his head. Going to be shaken up for a few days. Then for a week or so the pilot is groggy, migranes etc. So you go to the Mayo Clinic for a visit post concussion.. Acute follow-up then would involve pain relief but importantly psychological testing, and possibly brain imaging. And the pilot needs to be cleared to go back to work I would think.
If you broke an arm, you get it set and then 6 weeks later cast comes off. So I am thinking concussion.
Note there is a ‘follow-up’ in Aug 2016 at Rochester (Mayo). Of course, one year follow-up of concussion.
Might also explain why Leath is fuzzy about details involving his crash.
That is all quite interesting. And, naturally, if you’ve bumped your head in a plane crash you’d prefer not to discuss with your boss during contract negotiations or with the press, you’re not going to go to a local hospital.
We return now to the extensive and endlessly entertaining — if not also endlessly incriminating — interview of ISU President Steven Leath by the Iowa State Daily on 10/05/16. In a prior post on that subject we looked at the ludicrous degree to which Leath attempted to minimize the damage he inflicted on the school’s Cirrus SR22 during a hard landing at the Bloomington, IL airport. Thematically, however, Leath’s attempt to undersell the repairs which took place at two different facilities before the plane could be returned to service was consistent. Throughout the ISD interview, Leath downplayed every aspect of his use of the aircraft owned and operated by Iowa State.
That is not to say that Leath minimized everything, however. When it came to his fundraising prowess, Leath’s propensity for distortion swung hard in the other direction, leading to this hilarious exchange between Leath and the assistant to the president for communications, Megan Landolt, who was sitting in on the interview:
As noted in the earlier post about Leath’s ISD interview, Landolt seems to be exactly the kind of stickler you want in a job like that, so when she says $550M there’s a tendency to think she knows what she’s talking about. However, because Leath seems to be exactly the kind of brash, status-seeking huckster who appeals to Regents President Bruce Rastetter (see also J. Bruce Harreld, Chris Christie and Donald Trump), Leath has to jump in and correct the record $50M in his favor. At which point, being the stickler she is, Assistant to the President for Communications Landolt carefully explains the distinction between her number and Leath’s.
Now, being the actual, you know, president of Iowa State, and not just some multi-level marketing nut, how do you suppose Leath responded to Landolt’s reaffirmation of $550M? And remember — the whole point of the interview Leath was giving was to do everything possible to defuse questions that were swirling around about his use of ISU Flight Services. He had a lot to answer for, he was being pinned down on campus and in the state-wide press, so this interview was not just a puff piece destined for the family album. Leath needed to put his best foot forward and stay focused on the objective, which was to minimize inquiries into his use of Iowa State’s aircraft — both the twin-engine, ten-seat King Air 350, and the single-engine, four-seat Cirrus SR22, which Leath was qualified to fly.
So did Leath take the high road and move on? Of course not! Instead, Leath came back to Landolt’s paltry $550M a second time, intent on getting credit for that extra $50M.
It’s telling (and a little frightening) that in the middle of an interview which potentially concerns the fate of his presidency, Steven Leath can’t help himself. Instead of staying on message, Leath gets into an on-the-record spat with his own aide about whether he’s raised $550M or $600M, then frames the whole question in historical context, as if that helps. (For additional historical context, former University of Iowa President Sally Mason had her campus wiped out by flooding in 2008, then went on to raise $1.4B over an eight-year fundraising campaign.)
Only after Leath makes absolutely sure he’s going to get credit for the full $600M stuck in his head (if not also his craw) does he finally pick up the minimizing theme of the interview again and remind everyone that he hardly ever uses the ISU King Air 350:
Now, for those of you who are not from Iowa, when Leath says he drives “all the way to Des Moines” from the ISU campus in Ames, here’s a map showing the arduous nature of that trek. It’s forty-five minutes to an hour at worst (and at 4 or 5 a.m. it’s not the worst), it’s four-lane interstate almost the entire way, and even when there is traffic there isn’t traffic like there is around NYC or Los Angeles or San Francisco or Boston. In terms of time, Leath’s early-morning drive is almost certainly shorter than Granada Hills to LAX, even though the mileage for that trip is 20 miles less, or the East Village to JFK, which is even shorter as the crow flies, but could conceivably take you a month.
Also, because the most-compelling numerical values apparently start with a 6 followed by some number of zeroes, Leath offers up 60,000 as the number of commercial miles he’s flown between the beginning of 2016 and the time of the ISD interview in early October. Leath also seems to believe that factoid is some sort of proof that he couldn’t possible fly all of those commercial miles and have any time left over to fool around in either of ISU’s airplanes. On the other hand, the distance from Ames to San Fransisco — where Leath says ISU has “a lot of significant donors in Silicon Valley” — is about 1,500 miles, or 3,000 miles round trip. Meaning Leath could have knocked off the entire 60,000 miles with only 20 trips to Frisco and back, leaving him nine months or so to fly ISU.
The core problem, however, with Leath’s claim that his 60,000 American Airlines miles gives “a perspective on how much [he travels] commercially”, is that we would have to know how many miles he’s flown in ISU aircraft to know whether his 60,000 commercial miles are meaningful or not. But of course Leath being the “open, honest and forthcoming” university president that he is, he doesn’t actually provide ISD with the total miles he’s flown via ISU Flight Services over that same period.
To be fair, the reason Leath may not have provided that number is because the records kept by ISU Flight Services range from sloppy for the King Air 350 to non-existent for the Cirrus SR22. That in turn means arriving at an accurate determination about how many miles Leath has flown on Iowa State’s planes in any time frame may be impossible, including for the meticulous individuals at both the Iowa Board of Regents and the State Auditor’s office who are conducting parallel audits of all of those flights. One thing we can do while we wait for the audit results, however, is cobble together all of the information we do have from records posted on the ISU Flight Services FAQ, and use that to estimate the floor of Leath’s total usage.
For the only full year we have on record — 2015 — Leath takes the following 34 King Air 350 trips (some spread over multiple invoices), all of which originate from Ames unless otherwise specified:
Atlanta, GA — round trip — 1,392 Nautical Miles (nm)
Manassas, VA — multi-leg round trip — 1,642 nm
Missoula, MT — multi-leg round trip — 1,992 nm
Palm Springs, CA — multi-leg round trip — 2,530 nm
Sulphur Springs, TX — 1st round trip — 1,156 nm
Sulphur Springs, TX — 2nd round trip — 1,156 nm
Cedar Rapids, IA — two round trips same day — 404 nm
Kansas City, MO — round trip — 385 nm
Louisville, KY — round trip — 936 nm
Lexington, KY — multi-leg round trip — 1,054
Decorah, IA — round trip — 256 nm
Helena, MT — round trip — 1,746 nm
Rochester, MN — 1st round trip — 280 nm
Rochester, MN — 2nd round trip — 280 nm
Rochester, MN — 3rd round trip — 280 nm
Indianapolis, IN — one way — 399 nm
Morgantown, WV — 1st round trip — 1,354 nm
Morgantown, WV — 2nd round trip — 1,354 nm
Waterloo, IA — 1st round trip — 158 nm
Waterloo, IA — 2nd round trip — 158 nm
Caspar, WY — round trip — 1220 nm
Greybull, WY — multi-leg round trip — 824 nm
(Leath only rode on the two return legs; 1,434 nm for entire trip)
Cedar Rapids — 1st single round trip — 202 nm
Rochester, MN — 4th round trip — 280 nm
Rochester, MN — 5th round trip — 280 nm
Manassas, VA — round trip (2nd overall) — 1,602 nm
Iowa City, IA — round trip — 220 nm
Indianapolis, IN — round trip (2nd overall) — 798 nm
Chicago, IL — multi-leg round trip — 555 nm
Indianapolis, IN — round trip (3rd overall) — 798 nm
From Toledo, OH — one way, multi-leg — 524 nm
(Leath only rode on two return legs; 962 nm for entire trip)
San Antonio, TX to Forth Worth, TX — round trip — 449 nm
From San Antonio, TX to Ames — one way, multi-leg — 839 nm
Cedar Rapids, IA — 2nd single round trip — 202 nm
The total nautical miles that ISU President Leath traveled in 2015 , over 34 trips in the King Air 350, is 27,715. While the records for Leath’s use of the Cirrus SR22 are considerably less reliable, and it’s not even clear was in the plane on a given trip, in 2015 the Cirrus did make two round trips to Jefferson, NC, which can reasonably be attributed to Leath. The one-way distance from Ames to Jefferson is about 750 nm, making the round-trip distance 1,500 nm, multiplied by two trips gives us a minimum of an additional 3,000 nm flown flown by Leath in the Cirrus SR22 in 2015.
All-told, then, for 2015, the absolute floor of Leath’s (nautical) miles traveled via ISU Flight Services is 27,715 (King Air) + 3,000 (Cirrus) = 30,715. While I could not determine if American Airlines reports miles traveled in nautical miles or statute miles, what I do know is that at a bare minimum, ISU President Steven Leath flew 30,715 nautical miles, or 35,346 statue miles, in 2015, which could easily be “half the time” or more that Leath was flying commercial in 2016. In fact, even if we project that Leath will have 72,000 American Airlines miles by the end of the year — which may be overly generous given the holidays in November and December, to say nothing of school being out at the end of the year — we also have to acknowledge that we are not accounting for most of the Cirrus flights that Leath took. (Or rather, that he would have taken if he hadn’t put the plane out of commission for two and a half months, after which he also seems to have abstained from piloting the Cirrus until early February of 2016.)
Following on Leath’s attempt to give the ISD reporters some “perspective”, he apparently sensed that he had not done everything possible to minimize his use of ISU aircraft — perhaps because Landolt failed to jump in and correct him on anything — and immediately followed up on his 60,000-mile claim with an even bolder assertion:
As it turns out, despite the sketchy record keeping at ISU Flight Services, we actually can compare Leath’s use of the King Air 350 to that of the Athletic Department, which will in turn allow us to definitively determine whether Leath is, in comparison, a “minor user” of that plane. In fact, from a prior post we already know that will be a hard standard to meet, because of the 240 King Air invoices on which passengers appeared between April of 2014 and August of 2016, Leath himself appears on 94 (39%) of those invoices. If Leath believes he is a “minor user” at 39%, how much of the remaining 61% must the athletic department have used to constitute “way more” use than Leah?
Returning to those same files and tallying invoices which include any personnel from the ISU Athletic Department, we find 24 invoices in 2014, 43 invoices in 2015, and 38 invoices in 2016 — meaning all-told the ISU Athletic Department accounts for 105 (44%) of the 240 invoices during that twenty-eight-month time frame. Compared to that 44% usage by the Athletic Department, would you characterize Leath’s 39% usage rate as “minor”? Or, at 44%, would you say the Athletic Department uses the King Air “way more” than Leath at 39%? (Put another way, of the 199 total trips taken between Leath and Athletics — and there is no overlap — Leath used the plane 47% of the time, while Athletics used the plane 53% of the time.)
So how does a reasonably bright university president talk himself into that kind of easily fact-checked lie? Well, as noted at the beginning of this post, part of it just seems to be Leath’s temperament. Even when he should have been focused on the objective of the interview, he couldn’t help squabbling with Megan Landolt about $50M that was pointless in context. (Worse, the very fact that Leath laid claim to that $50M twice makes him seem like exactly the kind of self-involved individual would have no problem abusing his company’s air fleet.)
In the case of Leath’s “minor user” claim, however, he was staying on message — meaning he was doing everything possible to diminish the allegations and suspicions that were floating around. (Allegations and suspicions which would, in a few short weeks, spawn the two ongoing audits of ISU Flight Services.) Unfortunately, in trying to sell the idea that he was a “minor user” of the King Air, Leath made the salesman’s mistake of saying whatever he thought would close the deal.
As a factual matter, ISU President Steven Leath was not a “minor user” of the ISU King Air even when compared to the entire Iowa State Athletic Department. Instead, Leath was a clear travel peer and near equal. (Add in the King Air flights taken by the ISU Foundation, of which Leath is a board member, and the gap shrinks even more.) Given that the Athletic Department spans multiple teams and dozens of personnel, and that the flights taken include those by the AD, the head coaches and the assistant coaches of various sports — and on several occasions, even the spouses or partners of those coaches — it should also be abundantly clear that as an individual Leath’s use of the ISU King Air 350 is utterly dominant.
Again, out of 240 passenger invoices Leath’s name appears on 94, and no one in the Athletics Department (or any other department) comes close to that total. AD Pollard? During that same twenty-eight-month span, Pollard’s name appears on only 15 of the 240 invoices (6%). The head football coaches — Rhoads and Campbell? Between the two of them, their names appear on 36 invoices (15%). The head men’s basketball coaches — Hoiberg and Prohm? They show up on a combined 27 invoices (11%).
Steven Leath’s name appears on 94 of 240 invoices (39%) for the King Air 350. Over the same time frame, the AD, the two head football coaches, and the two head basketball combined appear on only 78 of those 240 invoices (33%). All of which would seem to suggest that the only thing ISU President Leath is really a “minor user” of is the truth.
Obviously Leath suffers from the well known ‘Trump Disease’ which includes narcissism, dominance, and a propensity to exaggerate (which one of Trump’s co-authors called ‘ truthful hyperbole’.
Leath tends to exaggerate the facts when it suits him (I raised 600 million, which his aide corrects to 550 million (which I bet is really something like 490 million upgraded; wonder how much is collected). Leath also tends to downgrade reality when this fits him too — thus he is a minor user of the plane.
What Leath says is plausible by obviously exaggerated in his benefit. (I would say is a 15-20% exaggerator; Trump is bigly more, like 5-7 times).
And you can see Leath loves to be the BMOC.
This fits in with Rastetter who loves to go around saying he donated 5 million to the U of Iowa, when it really is 1 million; obviously Rastetter is in Trump big league.
Frankly exaggerating is not unusual; I would put myself in the 10% range….so I am betting Leath is really more like 25-35% range.
However Leath is a serial liar, which fits in with Trump Disease and narcissism.
Too bad for ISU on this. (Harreld is much the same, a narcissist, a serial liar and an exaggerator too, from listening to him and looking at his CV)
What ever happened to honesty as extolled by a fellow like Willy Boyd, Iowa ex-President?
No wonder a fellow like Rastetter loves him some exaggerators like Christie and Trump.
Ames has a nice little flying club financed by the ISU…Rastetter, Leath, and the others.
In response to growing questions about his use of two airplanes owned by Iowa State University, on 10/11/16 ISU President Steven Leath sent a four-plus page letter to the Iowa Board of Regents. That letter included this unambiguous declaration:
In the previous post we dismantled Leath’s attempt to portray himself as a “minor user” of the ISU King Air 350. In the post before that we detailed Leath’s dual role as both ISU president and member of the ISU Foundation board, and how Leath may have used that duality to violate state disclosure requirements related to two secret settlements with former foundation presidents. Two posts before that we disproved Leath’s assertion that he rarely if ever flew on the King Air 350 alone or only with his wife. In the post before that we performed an unofficial audit of the woeful Cirrus SR22 flight logs, and in doing so learned that despite Leath’s claim that the Cirrus afforded him greater efficiency as president, Leath personally piloted that plane on only 30 of 760 possible days, and flew as or more often to his home in North Carolina than he did to meetings of the Iowa Board of Regents. Two posts before that we rebutted claims that the Cirrus was still “airworthy” after Leath’s “hard landing” in Bloomington, IL on 07/14/15, and that the repairs necessary to return the plane to service were trivial. In the two-part post before that, we first debunked the idea that Leath’s King Air landings at Horseheads, NY in 2014 were for fuel-cost reasons, then showed how Leath failed to alert the regents to his accident until after approval of his new five-year contract. (On the question of the Horseheads, NY stops, DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland utterly demolished Leath’s claim that the stops were driven by fuel-cost concerns, which in turn calls into question stops in North Carolina which Leath has justified on that same basis.) Finally, two posts before that we discredited the claim that Leath’s accident was caused by a “microburst” or a “downdraft in a thunderstorm”.
From all of the above we could easily conclude that ISU President Leath is neither open, honest nor forthcoming, but there’s more. Despite everything that has transpired since news of Leath’s accident broke in late September, the open, honest and forthcoming Steven Leath has never produced his pilot’s log to document his use of the Cirrus SR22, and has never made the pilots of the King Air 350 — who are employees of Iowa State University — available to the press to corroborate his claims about the Horseheads stops. Instead, Leath’s Lackey at the Department of University Relations published a massive Flight Services FAQ which, among other key distortions and omissions, included the “microburst” lie as fact [see #19].
As noted in a recent Bleeding Heartland post, the day after the ISU FAQ went live, on 10/13/16, I pulled down a copy of the FAQ for safekeeping. I did that after reading only part of the text, because I recognized the FAQ for the public relations propaganda that it was. Were the FAQ an open, honest and forthcoming recitation of facts, not only would the document and the URL for the webpage include a date, but any subsequent updates would include the dates of those changes. Because there were no dates on the document when it went live, I not only knew that at some point it would be updated or changed without any concern for accuracy or integrity, but that it had been implemented with that capacity in mind. (The FAQ also betrays its disingenuous purpose via the “Additional Resources” links in the right sidebar, which includes this bit of objective scholarship.
To underscore how brazen the bias is in the Flight Services FAQ, consider the following item, quoted in its entirety:
Well before the posting of the FAQ, administrators at ISU knew that Leath did not tell anyone at the Board of Regents about his accident until four or five weeks after the fact, which was one to two weeks after approval of his new five-year deal. Do you see any of that factual information presented? No, you do not, because the ISU Flight Services FAQ is not a document designed to be inform, it is a document designed to obscure the truth. In that context we might even say that the ISU Flight Services FAQ is as open, honest and forthcoming as president Leath himself — meaning it is none of those things.
In the preceding post we not only proved Leath’s claim that he was a “minor user” of the King Air false, we conclusively showed that he was the single-most dominant user of that airplane by far. That particular open, honest, forthcoming and flagrantly wrong assertion comes to us from Leath’s extensive interview with the Iowa State Daily on 10/05/15, and was part of a thematic attempt by Leath to minimize every aspect of his involvement with Iowa State aircraft. We also noted in that post, however, that Leath went out of his way to maximize the amount of money he had raised through his fundraising efforts, which Leath closely tied to the availability of ISU Flight Services, which he barely used at all.
Leath’s self-aggrandizing fundraising assertion was itself part of a second line of messaging that Leath put forward during the ISD interview, which was that he was being unfairly maligned simply for doing what he was hired to do. Specifically, here’s how Leath portrayed his charge to the school paper, which he later reprised in his 10/11/16 letter to the regents:
Despite Leath’s persistent problem recognizing and articulating the truth, those two sentences may be the most factually accurate statements Leath made in the entire interview. They not only fit with Regents President Rastetter’s mania for growth, they shed light on the hiring of J. Bruce Harreld at Iowa, and even provide insight into the kind of candidate the board is likely to hire at UNI. (More on all that in a moment.) The problem, of course, is that what Leath is really saying is that even if he did violate policy, or break a few rules, or even break the law, he shouldn’t be held accountable because of all of the money he’s brought in. Not a particularly noble line of argument, obviously but also not particularly surprising when money often seems to be the only ethos.
What may be surprising, however, is the degree to which Leath attempted not only to assert an over-riding imperative for his unethical if not illegal use of ISU’s airplanes, but to portray himself as a victim in the process. Specifically, you may have seen quotes in various news reports that Leath was “sad” about having to give up his use of the Cirrus SR22, but what you probably don’t know is that Leath used the word ‘sad’ seven times in the ISD interview, and even that doesn’t do his messaging rhetorical justice.
Here are Leath’s seven uses of the word ‘sad’ from the ISD interview:
Given all of that sadness it’s not hard to imagine one of Leath’s media minders telling Leath to harp on the fact that he was terribly sad about all of the good things at Iowa State that were being overshadowed. What’s a little harder to imagine is that any of his media minders imagined him formulating a sentence in which Leath giving up flying would be a big sacrifice for the university, but oh well. In terms of playing the victim, however, Leath’s entire sadness jag was subtle compared to this moment of jaw-dropping self pity, which brings us back to Leath’s belief that all of the money he’s raised excuses any abuses he may have committed with the school’s planes:
As a factual matter, nobody has accused the eternally sad President Leath of raising too much money or too little money, or even asserted that he should not have used the school’s plane for legitimate fundraising purposes. What people have raised questions about, rightly, and what Leath has done everything possible to avoid talking about, is the degree to which he treated Iowa State’s airplanes as personal perks in contravention of policy, regulations and even the law. Which is again exactly why Leath won’t turn over his log book or make his staff pilots available to the press, and has instead chosen to hide behind the school’s state-funded propaganda ministry.
The truly great con in all this, however, is that fundraising in itself is insufficient for earning the support of this particular Iowa Board of Regents. Despite Sally Mason raising over $1B to rebuild the UI campus in the wake of catastrophic flooding, the board had been trying to get rid of her for years by the time she stepped down. Likewise, the board had no problem leaving Bill Ruud twisting at UNI, even after he helped stabilize that campus following prior difficulties, and brought in $50M over his three-year tenure. (UNI is a significantly smaller university when compared to Iowa and Iowa State, and has no research mandate.)
So even when the very sad Steven Leath talks about how much money he’s raised — as if anyone else would have raised zero dollars, or as if that money excuses any abuses of power he committed as president — he’s not actually pointing to the real reason he hopes to get a free pass, which is that he has done exactly what the board wanted him to do when they hired him, which was be a tool of the ego-driven aspirations of the corrupt board leadership. Again, here are the two key quotes from Leath’s ISD interview:
Does that sound like President Leath believes he did anything wrong, no matter what he actually did? No, it does not. Instead, it sounds like a defiant man who believes he was entitled to do whatever he did in service of his mission, including blowing $4M on two airplanes — of which he was the primary user in each case — and another $1M to cover up the firing of two former ISU Foundation presidents. That defiance in turn seems to have informed the disingenuous FAQ, which was posted on 10/12/15, or one week after the ISD interview, and one day after Leath sent his letter to the regents.
Unfortunately, at least for Leath, his defiance in early to mid-October exacerbated the blowback from additional disclosures about his use of ISU’s airplanes the following week. Because that was the week leading up to the 10/18-10/19 meetings of the Board of Regents, President Rastetter was then compelled by the force of public scrutiny to pretend to be “extremely disappointed” in Leath, primarily as a means of derailing any serious interrogation by other members of the board. The audit of ISU Flight Services which the board authorized at those meetings, however, and the parallel audit auto-generated by the State Auditor, are very real, and could conceivably end Leath’s presidency if he is found to have used either plane for personal trips that have not already been acknowledged and appropriately reimbursed. (We’re assuming here, for no justifiable reason, that Leath’s powerful political protectors won’t simply tank both audits.)
The upshot of all of this is that there are only two possibilities. Either Leath was so woefully ignorant of the fact that what he was doing was unethical if not illegal that he is definitively incompetent, or he did know that what he was doing was unethical if not illegal, which means he’s a liar. In neither case, however, do we see Leath being “open, honest and forthcoming”. (Again, this is the same man who withheld knowledge of his Cirrus accident from the entire board until after they signed off on his lucrative new five-year deal.)
All of which raises an interesting question. Why did Leath make that declaration in his letter to the board? He didn’t have to — it wasn’t necessary in order to offer disingenuous defenses for his unethical if not illegal administrative excess — but he did it anyway. Why go there when it would be so easy to prove that Leath was being neither open, honest nor forthcoming?
The answer, I think, dovetails with prior posts about J. Bruce Harreld that speak to the same trait, and even to that trait in the leadership at the Board of Regents. From the post noted above about the Cirrus maintenance logs, and Leath’s attempt to minimize the damage he caused to that plane:
Put another way, guess who never has the kind of problems Steven Leath is having right now, or the kind of problems J. Bruce Harreld has had since he was hired, or the kind of problems Bruce Rastetter seems to have on a continual basis. That’s right — people who genuinely are open, honest and forthcoming. And people who are ethical, who follow not simply the most self-serving reading of a law, but the intent and spirit of that law, and of the regulations and policies they are governed by. And people who dot i’s and cross t’s, and refuse to round everything off in their favor, because they don’t believe they’re entitled to special consideration because of their position or how much money they make or how much money they have, or who they hangar their planes with, or who they hang out with on foundation-sponsored university hunting trips.
As for J. Bruce Harreld, he himself recently returned from an all-expenses-paid UI Foundation trip to visit his daughter in London, yet is apparently so busy when he’s in the United States that he has repeatedly refused interview requests from one of the biggest papers in the state. While Harreld is reportedly “making inroads” behind the scenes — apparently by co-opting individuals who operate in the same shallow transactional shoals that Harreld plies — as an actual leader he has all but fallen off the campus grid.
As noted in prior posts and a recent tweet, over the past year it’s been hard to get a handle on exactly what Harreld is doing, in large part because he’s always making promises instead of laying out specifics on how to move the school ahead. In reading Leath’s interview with ISD, however, and particularly his incredulous belief that he was being “criticized” for “doing exactly what [he] was asked to do”, I suddenly realized that Leath’s twin pillars perfectly matched what (little) we were seeing from Harreld.
When Harreld goes on and on about being “world-class”, which he does every time he opens his mouth, that’s his version of raising the university’s profile. For example, here he is this past Friday, in Mason City, 11/04/16, saying exactly the wrong thing to that proud and storied community:
Likewise, when Harreld flies to London on the UI Foundation’s books, or takes phone calls from corporations hoping to carve off a piece of UI for themselves, that’s Harreld’s version of fundraising without the school airplanes and celebrity bowhunters. Unfortunately, everything else — from acting like a president to leading the campus as a community to understanding the culture of a college campus (as opposed to the culture of the administrators on campus), to doing everything possible to ensure the safety and welfare of the students — is somebody else’s problem, because that is literally not what the Board of Regents hired Harreld to do.
The Leath paradigm also fits in reverse, when looking back at why the regents conspired with a traitorous UI administrator to jam Harreld into office using a fraudulent search. As a career second-banana at IBM, Kraft, Boston Chicken and elsewhere, Harreld is used to taking orders and running with them — or, more accurately, selling them to the rest of an organization. He’s the guy you get to convince everyone else to play ball, after you’ve decide what the game will be.
Harreld’s mandate as a toad president is Leath’s mandate: make Iowa sexy, which Harreld has decided to do by gaming Iowa’s national college rank at any cost, and raise money, which Harreld is prepared to do by monetizing programs and departments as if UI were a start-up incubator premised on the fail-faster ethos of Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, because of his prodigious deficits, he literally can’t do anything else. He can’t lead by example because of his pugnacious temperament, he can’t build bridges because he’s unwilling to cop to the abuses of power that propelled him into office, so he simply ignores the stuff he doesn’t want to do, including talking to reporters who might ask him questions he dare not answer.
After a full year in office none of the speeches Harreld has given have been uploaded to the presidential website, including both his installation speech and his ‘state of the university’ speech from the beginning of this academic year. Last year Harreld only held one of three promised town halls, and this year already seems determined to bail on all three. Harreld even skipped out on the recent 25th anniversary of the 11/1 mass shooting on campus, yet at the same time he has been slow-walking desperately needed mental-health staffing hires despite sitting on over $11M in discretionary funds. That is all there is to the man, that is all there is to the plan.
As for what all this portends for the ongoing presidential search at the University of Northern Iowa, the template is clear. Hire someone to raise the school’s profile — albeit in a more regional way, given UNI’s significantly smaller size –who will also beat the bushes for funding. As mentioned elsewhere, were I a betting man, and I am decidedly not, I would put my money on interim UNI President Jim Wohlpart getting the job if he applied, in large part because that’s how this crony bunch makes hires. First put someone in a position on an interim basis, then use their supposed familiarity with the job to justify hiring them on a permanent basis.
The more pertinent question, of course, is whether the new president at the University of Northern Iowa will be ethical. While Steven Leath has raised a lot of money, and has probably also raised Iowa State’s profile over there in Big 12 country, by no means has Steven Leath been “open, honest and forthcoming” about his use of Iowa State aircraft. Likewise, whatever he’s doing while he’s skulking around in the shadows, I’m sure J. Bruce Harreld is doing exactly what he was hired to do in his own “world-class” fashion, yet the fact remains that he is, demonstrably, a liar and a cheat, and only achieved the office he now holds because of a small cabal of co-conspirators.
It is also possible that Wohlpart gave the regents the right nudges and winks before Ruud was driven out last year, and that he will be the second done-deal hire in a row, assuming Leath was not the first. That would of course be perfectly in keeping with the ethics demonstrated by the leadership at the board, and by the presidents at the other state schools. If Wohlpart did not apply, or does not make the final cut for some inexplicable reason, keep your eye out for the candidate who sounds like an open, honest and forthcoming used-car salesperson.
I am sick of these carpetbagging dilettantes. Iowa is around #34 in % college educated in the country. Iowa is around #43 in % graduate degree education. Have you heard Leath’s or Harreld’s or Rastetter’s or Branstad’s plans how to raise Iowa above the educational levels of say Mississippi? or a 7th world country?
For Branstad and Rastetter this is perfect. Guess the correlation between state educational level and state voting preferences for the ‘make american great again, fascist’? On the other hand, Leath and Harreld are just money-sucking and benefit-sucking leaches serving their masters.
Iowa joined the great (confederate flag) South apparently about 10-15 years ago…
Open any jail cell in any prison in America. Each person in jail is a victim and misunderstood, and conspired against. They are all very sad. They had ‘no idea’.
Leath resembles that mentality. An ethical state AG would have started (not suppressed) an investigation by now.
Oh well, it takes a village to raise a corrupt crony.
A few weeks back you may remember that the combined prosecutorial might of the Iowa Attorney General’s office and the Story County Attorney’s office was thwarted by the fact that no one had lodged an official complaint with law enforcement about Iowa State President Steven Leath’s use and abuse of his school’s two airplanes. Ironically, we learned about that pretext of procedural powerlessness when Iowa AG Tom Miller, a Democrat, halted a nascent investigation that had been launched by prosecutor Rob Sand, within the AG’s own office. Sand’s files were then turned over to Story Count Attorney Jessica Reynolds, a Democrat, who has jurisdiction over Iowa State, who summarily dropped them like a hot potato. In doing so, Reynolds cited the following justification to the Iowa Informer on 10/20/16, in the original version of a post which has since been updated:
It stands to reason that if you cut off a nascent investigation, there probably won’t be any evidence of a crime in the files you then forward to another prosecutor. So while Reynolds’ is undoubtedly correct that there was no “evidence of a crime” in Sands’ files, the main reason for that is that the Iowa AG prevented his own staff from looking into the matter. (Apparently, you can never be too deferential to people who may have committed abuses of power, or even broken the law.)
Just so we’re all clear, the state’s AG couldn’t look into potential corruption or criminal activity at the state-funded and state-run Iowa State University because — among other things — the AG’s office works for the corrupt leadership at the Iowa Board of Regents, which in turn employs ISU President Leath. Unfortunately, the Story County Attorney, who apparently has prosecutorial jurisdiction even over matters of state government, was equally powerless because nobody actually lodged a complaint for law enforcement to investigate. And by law enforcement, Story County Attorney Reynolds’ specifically meant the Ames Police Department, because of course the city of Ames, and the campus of Iowa State University, are in Story County.
Now, one interesting byproduct of all of these declarations of impotence by the highest-ranking government lawyers at the state and county level is that they finally explain why no one ever did anything about the blatant fraud that was committed by Regents President Bruce Rastetter, UI administrator Jean Robillard, and others, when they ran a sham search at taxpayer expense in order to appoint J. Bruce Harreld as president of the University of Iowa. Because in order to get any of those bright legal lights to prosecute crimes and abuses of power, you first have to convince a law enforcement agency to investigate and gather evidence of said crimes and abuses, which raises an obvious question. If a crime or abuse of power takes place at state level, in multiple jurisdictions, over period of multiple months, who exactly who would investigate that crime or abuse of power?
Even if you know that multiple people, including J. Bruce Harreld himself, lied on the record, who are you going to take that complaint to? Your local county sheriff? The municipal police in your community? How about the Department of Public Safety on the campus of the University of Iowa? Do you think any of them are prepared not only to investigate the president of the school, but to do so in a conspiracy case which involves multiple locations and players over an extended period of time?
Unfortunately, the state’s own Division of Criminal Investigation doesn’t seem to list government corruption as a concern, meaning they would probably refer a complainant back to the county in which the alleged crime or abuse of power took place — even if it could only be understood by looking at events in multiple counties over an extended period of time. And even if you did get the DCI interested, they would ultimately have to refer the case to the AG’s office for prosecution, which would never happen because the Iowa AG works for the Iowa Board of Regents. But I digress….
As it happens, a few days ago someone actually did lodge a complaint about Steven Leath’s flying habits with Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds, who did indeed forward that complain to law enforcement — albeit not the law enforcement you might expect, nor indeed the law enforcement she herself specified earlier:
As regular readers know, I am always woefully behind the curve in terms of understanding how universities govern themselves. I also have this perpetually naive view that everyone wakes up in the morning and sets out to do a good job, when the evidence is quite clear that when most people in the regents’ system wake up their single-minded objective is avoiding accountability. Still, it’s quite impressive to see a public official not only go against her own previous advice about exactly what to do in a specific situation, but to then also watch her forward a complaint to a law enforcement agency which is overseen by the person who would be under investigation — assuming, of course, that said law enforcement agency, in its discretion, thought there was anything to investigate.
In fact, it was so hard for me to get my head around that circumstance that I actually tried to look up whether the Story County Attorney, or any county attorney, has the unilateral right to bypass the county sheriff of municipal police department and forward a case to a campus police department. As you might imagine, however, that wasn’t covered on the 124-word web page, and a survey of the news suggests there isn’t a lot of precedent to draw from. I was thus understandably relieved when DesMoinesDem at Bleeding Heartland wrote a post detailing that absurdity, which was updated several days later with a link pointing back to an update from Gavin Aronson at the Iowa Informer:
Once again, of course, County Attorney Reynolds is powerless to do anything other than funnel the complaint right into the administrative maw of the very man who is alleged to have committed a crime. And yes, we could pretend that the same President Leath who had no problem implicating his own pilots in the potentially unlawful decision to repeatedly land his plane at the Horseheads, NY airport in 2014 — without ever actually producing said pilots to corroborate his version of events — would not interfere with or derail an investigation by a subordinate in his own bureaucracy, but after looking at the systemic corruption at the Iowa Board of Regents for over a year, we’re not going to do that. Because Story County Attorney Reynolds is not burdened by similar awareness, however — what with her being up there in Story County, and the Iowa Board of Regents offices being waaaaay down in Polk County — from her perspective it’s all perfectly neat and tidy and by the book, even if all that procedural fastidiousness ultimately allows someone to get away with one or more crimes or abuses of power.
Coming up now on six weeks since Leath’s 2015 “hard landing” was first reported in the press, and three weeks since the Board of Regents was compelled to call for an audit of all flights at ISU since Leath took office, has any investigative agency asked Iowa State President Steven Leath for his log book? Apparently not. Has any investigative agency asked to speak to the pilots, whom Leath blamed for the ‘fuel stops’ at Horseheads in 2014? Apparently not. And yet we’re now supposed to believe that the chief of campus security at Iowa State will going to ferret out the mystery behind the day-long, round-trip flight of the school’s Cirrus SR22 to and from North Carolina? Apparently.
Although I floated this analogy much earlier, it has taken a long time — much longer than it should have — to reframe it in the appropriate context. Where I earlier equated Rastetter himself to a feudal lord, I now see the Board of Regents for what it is, which is a feudal system which not only has no accountability to the rest of the state, in some aspects it actually controls the state. As president of the board, Rastetter acts as emperor, and in that capacity has the power to compel the AG to do his bidding. On each campus Rastetter also has (or, in the case of UNI, is about to have) a loyal feudal lord who is free to do whatever he (or she, but probably not) feels like doing, as long as they follow instructions and do not bring disgrace to the emperor.
If there are any legal concerns on a given campus — as long as those concerns are not federal in nature — each lord also has his own legal staff and police department standing by to make those problems go away, along with plenty of board liaisons and media minders to smooth everything over. As a result, the only indignity feudal lord Leath has suffered since he took office in 2012 came about not because of specific questions surrounding his use of ISU aircraft over that time, but because those questions sullied Emperor Rastetter’s pristine board meeting back in October.
It may well be that no one in a position of authority will ever hold anyone at the Board of Regents or the state universities accountable for their abuses, but we can still keep documenting the atrocities for future generations. And while there is clearly a massive integrity deficit in state government, at all levels and across party lines, that doesn’t mean everyone is for sale. Sooner or later, someone is going to say enough, and you never know who that person might be. It just won’t be Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds, who seems to be as good at making excuses as ISU President Leath.
All of which brings us to the real puzzle in this post, which is what particular excuse Lord Leath and his crack team of message manipulators will use to explain away the all-day flight of Iowa State’s Cirrus SR22 to Jefferson, North Carolina and back, which stopped only long enough to fuel up and load or unload passengers. Whatever justification ISU ultimately puts forward — assuming Interim Chief DeLashmutt even asks — the one thing you can be sure Leath did not do was give Miles Lackey and his wife a free trip back to NC after Leath, his wife, a redacted couple and the Lackeys spent the prior two days palling around at a Big 12 basketball tournament, which in itself required not one, not two, not three, but four separate flights of Iowa State’s professionally piloted King Air 350, including a round trip to games on the second day even after Iowa State lost the day before (scroll down to Update 10/23/16. And we know that’s not what happened because that would be wrong, and by his own edict the open, honest and forthcoming feudal lord of Story County, Steven Leath can do no wrong.
This is so incredibly frustrating. What can an ordinary citizen do, besides bringing the matter to the public eye? Who in local or state government or local or state law enforcement will stop this????
It’s frustrating, but also kind of fascinating in a way. You look at all of the governmental structures — the AG, the county attorneys, the various law enforcement agencies, and of course the Board of Regents itself, and all of its talk about ethics and transparency yada yada yada — and it turns out that there is literally no legal oversight of the regents. None. Once you’re in, you can do whatever you want, including steal a presidential university election at taxpayer expense, and yet even if someone brings a formal charge against you, the entire apparatus of government will conspire to keep you from potential harm.
It is, truly, pure corruption, and yet until you drill down into it it looks like respectable government. A whole bunch of very nice people, doing and saying all the right things, and all the while making sure that no light ever shines on the disease at the core.
Some might even complain that “it’s a rigged system!” But, how can that be? Are they not all honorable men?
Well, and it’s not going to change in the next four years, because anything to break up the corruption logjam would involve federal prosecution, and that’d mean Trump’s man investigating Trump’s man.
I would suggest the young people set off on foot if they have to.
Pretty obvious that the voters could give a damn about ethics and corruption, and even education.
The only watchdog on the Iowa Board of Regents Corruption Parade was the Democratic controlled Iowa Senate, which is now a thing of the past. Thus the Rastettter dominated, crony, corrupt BOR is free to pillage the system all it wishes.
Rastetter is on the Trump short list for Sec of Agriculture. Fitting. Rastetter being a sociopathic, mendacious, bullying figure would fit in fine to that administration.
Branstad will be emboldened, as he son ‘ran’ the Iowa Trump campaign. This will be like Branstad in a candy store grabbing all the things he ever wanted and putting his boot on the face of all those he wished to suppressed. Expect everything not set in absolute concrete to be auctioned off to a business and to be privatized.
As someone mentioned, no federal agency is now likely to investigate Govt (read GOP) cronyism, corruption, money grabbing etc etc. Most federal agencies will be stripped down (as the fellow in charge of the EPA transition is one huge climate denier, climate liar).
And we thought maybe the FBI would investigate corruption and mismanagement? Ha! It appears the FBI’s role is to influence elections, and to leak information to Rudy (boy am I demented Giuliani).
The voting almost completely (1:1) correlated with educational level. Iowa is #34 in college education and #43 in graduate degree education. Check education v. red state voting. So why would anyone in Iowa Govt (or red state Govt) ever improve the educational system? The implications are obvious. An under-educated population is a red population.
Upon reflection, the most disturbing issue here remains ‘What is Steven Leath’s actual professional responsibility’?
From what I read, the Board of Regents, and Leath’s supportive constituency is quite happy he can raise funds. Is that the actual job of the President of Iowa State University? To raise donations to inflate the ISU fund (so he can buy airplanes to raise more funds, and to enrich his personal life, all of which is quite circular).
Is the president responsible for educational advancement? I see no great movement in ISU’s academic ranking. Actually their ranking is bad, something like 125 or so. Has Leath moved that needle up?
Has Leath enhanced the educational programs there? Are new and vital undergraduate and graduate programs injecting life into the Iowa economy? Has Leath produced leaders in Iowa’s (or the country’s) business, cultural, political, and technological communities, more than any of his predecessors?
Has President Leath encouraged and nurtured great academic achievements like grants for scientific and academic research, books, journal articles, and scholarly achievements? Under Leath has ISU produced awards and accolades for vital research that make differences in Iowa and in the country?
I am not aware of any such achievements or advancements of his actual academic mission. Although he can ‘raise funds’, hunt with the stars, and use ISU transportation to enhance his own quality of life, I do not see the public service achievements.
Isn’t that what a university president should be doing…enhancing the achievements and progress of the students, faculty, and support staff for which he is responsible? Or is the role (and the compensation) all for flying around the country, digging out donations, hunting and laughing with the good ole boys, basically enjoying his wealth and his life?
Same goes for Harreld. Although Harreld is far far far less qualified to enhance academics and scholarly work at UIowa that Leath at ISU, he should try. Seems that he has settled in being the traveling ambassador for UIowa, traveling to London, and hiding from any public accountability for his achievements (or lack thereof).
(I understand there are other international travel plans for the eminent Mr Harreld too)
Any new and vital academic achievement for Harreld’s school? New papers, grants, books, scientific findings? And could Harreld even recognize such events if they happened?
In Leath’s case, he is actually qualified to judge scholarly achievement; it appears that he is more apt to enjoy hunting than do that.
However Harreld is just inept, unqualified, and inexperienced in enhancing anything academic. However, he does appear to have a good travel agent…