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Remove 2 regents, Democratic group says

But the governor says he trusts that they'll find a new U of I president.

Erin Jordan

Des Moines Register

December 9, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, 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 Des Moines Register.]

Iowa City, Ia. - Johnson County's Democratic Central Committee has passed a resolution asking Gov. Tom Vilsack to seek the resignations of the Iowa Board of Regents leaders.

The committee voted 24-4 Thursday night in favor of the resolution calling on Vilsack to ask Regents President Michael Gartner and President Pro Tempore Teresa Wahlert to step down from the nine-member board, said Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett, a Democrat.

The resolution, proposed by University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk, comes after a failed presidential search at the university.

Vilsack said Friday that he continues to have confidence in the Board of Regents and its leaders.

"I'm confident that despite the troubles, we will find the best president. That is the job that the Regents are committed to, and I trust them that they will do the very best job they can possibly do," Vilsack said. "I know there are some concerns on the campus ... but I'm going to continue to keep my focus on what I think is the most important job we all have, which is to do what we can to get the best president."

Gartner told the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Thursday that he would not resign.

Gartner has not returned calls to The Des Moines Register for more than a week. Wahlert did not return a phone call Friday.

Vilsack, who has announced he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, appointed Gartner and Wahlert in January 2005. Johnson County, a heavily Democratic county, may be a critical area of support in order for Vilsack to win the 2008 Iowa caucuses and keep alive his bid for the White House.

The Johnson County group's resolution voiced no confidence in the regents, asked Gov.-elect Chet Culver to investigate recent leadership of the regents, and asked Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to investigate whether the board violated Iowa's open meetings law.

Faculty, staff and students have piled criticism on Gartner and Wahlert for what they describe as heavy-handed leadership and secrecy surrounding the 10-month presidential search. The campus groups have said they may hold their own no-confidence votes in regents leadership in coming weeks.

The regents voted 6-2 on Nov. 17 to reject four finalists selected by an 18-member search committee composed of regents, faculty, staff, students and others in the U of I community.

The board reconsidered the finalists earlier this week, but when one finalist was approached about the job, he declined.

Gartner announced Thursday that the U of I would launch a new search.

Register staff writer Jonathan Roos contributed to this article.

Removal of regents
State law appears to limit the circumstances under which Iowa Board of Regents members can be removed from office.

The code says the governor, with approval of a majority of the Iowa Senate, can remove any board member for "malfeasance in office, or for any cause which would render the member ineligible for appointment or incapable or unfit to discharge the duties of the office."