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IOWA CITY — Each of Iowa’s public universities has approved as a “conflict of interest vendor” Seneca Companies Inc. — which the state’s newest regent heads as president and chief operating officer.
Gov. Kim Reynolds in June appointed JC Risewick to fill a vacancy on the Board of Regents — which governs the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.
A review by The Gazette found the UI spent or committed to spend a total of $125,899 with Des Moines-based Seneca over the last three years — before Risewick’s appointment.
A letter the Board of Regents Office sent Risewick on Monday outlining a plan for university contracting with Seneca going forward indicates he can’t have access to information regarding any proposed transaction with a regent institution “that is not otherwise available to the public.”
“Additionally, in your role as a member of the Board of Regents, you shall not participate in any discussions or decisions regarding a proposed transaction involving Seneca Companies, Inc. and a regent institution,” according to the letter.
Where UI, for example, typically doesn’t have to publicly bid work under $50,000, a “conflict of interest vendor” triggers a lower threshold.
“The bid threshold for approved conflict of interest vendors is $2,000,” according to the board letter. “Therefore, all transactions for an amount greater than or equal to $2,000 are required to be competitively bid before an order can be placed with your business.”
Additionally, state law requires a disclosure form to be filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board within 20 days of a regent institution transaction with Seneca.
“The board office will provide support and assistance in the timely completion and filing of this disclosure form,” according to the letter.
Other rules that apply for conflict of interest vendors:
- Work cannot begin and goods can’t be shipped without a purchase order number or a professional services agreement and corresponding purchase order, signed by a chief procurement officer;
- No payments can be made without an authorized purchase order;
- Universities can’t use procurement cards to pay conflict of interest vendors, regardless of the amount.
Risewick has served as Seneca president since 2017, chief operating officer since 2016, and vice president of sales since 2013, according to his LinkedIn profile. In total, Risewick has spent more than 16 years with Seneca, which his father Chris Risewick founded in 1972.
Many of the UI payments to Seneca — serving the petroleum and fuel-systems industry — have been for facilities-related maintenance, repairs and installations on campus.
ISU’s modest purchases in the past have been for parts and repairs.
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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