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Former regents chief blames Gartner, defends Wahlert in presidential search

Lyle Muller

The Gazette
December 14, 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 — State Regents President Michael Gartner is a poor leader who is to blame for the failed University of Iowa presidential search, former Regents President Marvin Pomerantz said Wednesday.

  ‘‘It isn’t that he’s not brilliant,’’ Pomerantz told The Gazette in an interview. Rather, Gartner puts himself above other people and treats them poorly, Pomerantz said in a scathing public critique of Gartner and regents efforts to find a new UI president.

  ‘‘It’s got to be said. I don’t take any joy in saying it,’’ Pomerantz, the regents’ president in 1987-93 and 1995-96, said by phone from his Mid America Group office in West Des Moines, where he is the company’s chairman and CEO. Gartner deflected the criticism, saying Pomerantz is trying to settle old scores from when Gartner was the Des Moines Register’s editor.

  ‘‘Marvin lobbied hard against my appointment to the board. Then he lobbied hard against my confirmation. Then he lobbied hard against my election as president,’’ Gartner told reporters after taping an Iowa Public Television appearance. ‘‘We clashed periodically, and this is just Marvin kind of venting about that. That’s fine.’’

  Pomerantz defended Regent Teresa Wahlert, head of the recently disbanded UI presidential search committee. She is his company’s president and chief operating officer and has taken harsh criticism from UI campus groups.

  ‘‘Teresa Wahlert isn’t the problem,’’ Pomerantz said. ‘‘Everyone knows that Michael, he’s the architect of this.’’

  Gartner should not resign as regents president, and ‘‘no confidence’’ votes being taken by UI faculty, staff and students are not helping the matter, Pomerantz said. The more pressure people put on Gartner to quit, the more he will resolve to stay, Pomerantz said.

  Pomerantz said the regents should not resume their search for a successor to former UI President David Skorton until controversy about the search settles.

  ‘‘My solution is to cool it. Give it a chance. Just let it rest,’’ Pomerantz said. He said Interim UI President Gary Fethke is a capable leader in the meantime.
James Q. Lynch of The Gazette contributed to this story.