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Regents to investigate emeritus policy

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

January 24, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

The Iowa state Board of Regents will investigate the emeritus policy at regent institutions.

Regent President Pro-tem Teresa Wahlert of Waukee requested a report after being questioned by reporters and seeing published stories last weekend about perks for University Hospital Director Emeritus John Colloton.

"I guess I would like to know what the policy is," Wahlert said during a telephonic regent meeting Tuesday. "It might be good to ask each institution."

Emeritus is an honorific title granted to longtime faculty and staff that retire in good standing. There are no specific responsibilities, but many emeriti stay active by teaching a course, volunteering or serving as a consultant, while others fade away.

Colloton has no official duties and is considered a private citizen by UI.

However, he has maintained a seventh-floor office in the John Colloton Pavilion since retiring in 1993 after a long tenure as CEO and director of University Hospitals. He utilizes a state-funded secretary, University of Iowa equipment and a "Lot 1" parking tag, the highest level permit reserved for 30 top administrators. Typically, office space used by emeriti is reviewed for necessity on an annual basis. Colloton's usage has never been monitored.

Wahlert was confused when contacted by media over the weekend and was not sure how to respond.

"So I guess I should direct all questions to (Regents) Bob (Downer of Iowa City) and Amir (Arbisser of Davenport)," Wahlert said of two regents that had commented in the published stories.

Arbisser had questioned the necessity of Colloton's office and said that if Colloton is on campus he should be subject to open records requests.

UI, on the advice of the Iowa Attorney General and at Colloton's urging, refused open records requests directed at Colloton stating that he is a private citizen. However, UI released some documents turned in by UI employees, which they had received from Colloton.

Some of those documents, which recently were published, highlighted Colloton's perks and presentation of himself as part of the university through the use of his official title on UI letterhead, that his secretary had drafted the letter and that Colloton is offering advice.

"It sounds as though some things came up in (Freedom of Information Act) requests," Arbisser said Tuesday when Wahlert asked what prompted the issue.

Regents also had called for an investigation Jan. 11 into a security breach related to someone accessing Colloton's files. UI has categorized it as a personnel matter.