Regents approve new transparency task force

The nine-member group will make sure future operations are conducted "in as much sunlight as possible"

WEST DES MOINES -- A new transparency task force will develop recommendations for the state Board of Regents aimed at addressing concerns about openness and rebuilding public trust.

State regents approved formation of the new nine-member task force during a meeting Wednesday in West Des Moines.

The transparency task force is aimed at enabling the regent universities to "regain the trust of their constituents and to make sure all future operations are conducted in as much sunlight as possible,"  Regents President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter said, in outlining the concerns of Regents President Craig Lang, who was traveling and unable to attend Wednesday's meeting.

The task force will include: one member from the governor's public information board; two members from the state Legislature, appointed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader; one regent, to be appointed by the board president; one member each from the three regent universities, appointed by the respective school presidents; the executive director of the regents office; and one member of the public.

The task force and any ensuing work on transparency will encompass the entire regents enterprise, including the board, board office and the state's two special schools overseen by the regents, Rastetter said.

Recommendations for the task force will be approved at the March board meeting, with the expectation that the first progress report from the task force will happen at the June meeting.

In discussing plans for the task force and potential policy changes related to transparency last week, Lang said this action is due in part to questions and criticism about openness at the regent universities in recent months. But regents also want to make sure they are in line with the intent behind changes to Iowa’s Sunshine Laws approved last spring, he said.

As part of the task force work, the anticipation is also that the three universities will appoint transparency officers who would report directly to the board office with a "dotted line" relationship to the university presidents, similar to the current structure with the university lobbyists, Rastetter said.

"That way as requests come in, we can have consistency on the open records and transparency across the system, then also the board office is aware of those requests right away and we can be responsive," he said. 

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