• Education

    University of Iowa settles for $55K lawsuit tied to Harreld hire

    UI admits no guilt in making payment

    (File photo) The Old Capitol Building between Schaeffer Hall (left) and Macbride Hall (right) on the Pentacrest on campu
    (File photo) The Old Capitol Building between Schaeffer Hall (left) and Macbride Hall (right) on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

    Without admitting wrongdoing, the University of Iowa’s search committee that helped hire current President Bruce Harreld in 2015 has agreed to pay its accuser $55,000 in attorney fees.

    The settlement, made public this week but signed Sept. 7, also spells out UI presidential search committee requirements to post meeting notices and agendas; livestream all open portions of meetings and retain those recordings online for at least 90 days; and provide training during its first meeting.

    Those terms speak to accusations in the lawsuit, which UI professor emeritus Harold Hammond filed in September 2015 — just days after the Board of Regents rejected widespread faculty, staff and student input by hiring Harreld, a former IBM businessman with no administrative academic experience.

    Hammond, among other things, accused the UI search committee of holding off-site interviews with semifinalists at a location outside Iowa at a time not reasonably accessible to the public; holding closed meetings in violation of proper procedures; inappropriately closing some meetings; and making decisions in secret that should have been made in the open.

    Hammond had asked the court to nullify actions of the search committee — meaning its pick of Harreld as a finalist — to award damages and ensure the institution doesn’t break the law again.

    As that case was moving through the district court system, Hammond died June 12, 2016. Because attorneys let dates slip, UI professor emeritus John Menninger had to revive the case by filing a new lawsuit — making the same allegations — in April 2017.

    The university — acting on behalf of its now-defunct search committee — denied any wrongdoing throughout the litigation and asked a judge to dismiss the case. A district court judge rejected that request and set the case for trial Nov. 27 — now canceled in lieu of this month’s settlement.

    Menninger’s case was one of two filed against the UI or Board of Regents in connection with Harreld’s hire. Former UI employee and alumnus Gerhild Krapf also sued in May 2016, accusing the board of violating open meetings laws in its recruitment methods of President Harreld.

    A judge sided with the Board of Regents in October 2017, and Krapft appealed — keeping that case alive.

    l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com