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Downer: Regents should consider ombudsman's points on UI search

Diane Heldt

The Gazette

January 6, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, 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 Gazette.]

  A letter to the state Board of Regents from the Iowa ombudsman regarding the University of Iowa presidential search raises some points the board should consider, though the ombudsman has no legal authority regarding the search, Regent Bob Downer of Iowa City said.

  ‘‘ There are some reasonable points of view and concerns, and I intend to be responsive to those concerns,’’ Downer said. ‘‘That’s not to say I necessarily agree.’’

  The letter from Ombudsman William Angrick was sent Dec. 29 to Regents President Michael Gartner and copied to all the regents.

  It says the search should be as open as possible and asks for an explanation of the process the regents plan to use. The contentious search for a successor to David Skorton was restarted Dec. 18; College of Dentistry Dean David Johnsen was picked to lead it. Regents President Pro Tem Teresa Wahlert of Waukee said it’s fine the ombudsman expressed his views, but she wasn’t concerned by the letter. The regents’ intent has always been to be as public as they can with the search, she said, adding that the new search committee will likely address issues raised.

  The letter was unusual in that the ombudsman has no authority in the search, Regents Executive Director Gary Steinke said Friday.

  The role of the ombudsman, established in the Iowa Code, is to investigate citizens’ complaints about state and local governments, with some exceptions such as the governor and his staff, the Legislature and the courts. Ruth Cooperrider, deputy ombudsman, said the letter did not stem from citizen complaints but was a ‘‘self-initiated inquiry."