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Regents back to hunt for new UI president

Gregg Hennigan and Lyle Muller

The Gazette

December 5, 2006

[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.]

  IOWA CITY — The state regents emerged from a 90 minute closed session Monday morning after discussing University of Iowa presidential candidates, but with no word on whether a pick is pending.

  Regents Executive Director Gary Steinke declined to say what was talked about during the telephonic session, including whether the regents discussed four finalists previously forwarded to them by a now disbanded search committee.

  When the regents reconvened into open session the only comment was brief, from Regents President Michael Gartner.

  ‘‘It was a productive session, but we have no announcement to go beyond that at this time,’’ he said.

  Monday’s meeting, scheduled late Friday afternoon, held true to form in this contentious presidential search — its secrecy was controversial.

  UI faculty leaders listening to the telephonic vote to go into closed session questioned whether the discussion should be private. So did Regent Bob Downer of Iowa City, who voted against going into executive session.

  Downer said that while the regents could do so to discuss personnel, it appeared they were going to discuss previous actions they took in open session, which would not be permitted in Iowa’s Open Meetings Law. The regents voted 6-2 on Nov. 17 to reject the finalists and start a new presidential search.

  ‘‘I question whether this is really a fit at this point for a closed session,’’ Downer said. Tom Evans, the regents’ general counsel, said the regents could discuss candidates in closed session and the process for evaluating them but not previous regents’ motions and processes. Gartner said the session was to discuss candidates. He and seven other regents voted for the executive session in the brief open meeting, which started at 7:43 a.m.

  Steinke said he was confident the session was legal. ‘‘There was a full and complete discussion of candidates, their
names and their qualifications today, so it was absolutely appropriate to go into executive session,’’ he said.