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After first losing its plaintiff and then its argument to swap in a substitute petitioner, a once defunct lawsuit against the 2015 University of Iowa committee charged with searching for the school's next president has been revived and is set for trial.
That suit accusing the search committee of violating Iowa open meetings laws is scheduled for a non-jury trial Nov. 27, 2018, according to court documents. If that date sticks, the trial will come one year after a related lawsuit is scheduled for a non-jury trial Nov. 6.
The case on track for later this year comes from former UI employee and alumnus Gerhild Krapf, who accuses the Board of Regents of violating open meetings laws in its recruitment of UI President Bruce Harreld.
Board members aggressively sought Harreld, a former IBM businessman with no academic administrative experience, and then picked him in September 2015 over three more traditional candidates despite widespread criticism of his candidacy.
The case against the search committee set for trial next year started with a complaint from UI professor emeritus Harold Hammond, who died June 12, 2016, as his case was progressing through the system.
Hammond had accused the committee of, among other things, holding off-site interviews with semifinalists at a location outside Iowa and at a time not reasonably accessible to the public; holding closed meetings without following proper procedures; inappropriately holding closed meetings; and making decisions in closed session that should have been made in the open.
Among his requests of the court, Hammond asked a judge to nullify all actions the committee took, award damages, and make sure the defendants don't continue to violate state law.
Because attorneys let court dates slip after Hammond's passing, when they asked in December to assign Hammond's case to UI professor emeritus John Menninger and make him the new plaintiff, a judge said the request came too late.
The judge dismissed the lawsuit in February and suggested Menninger proceed if he wants with his own separate claim. Menninger did just that, refiling the follow-up lawsuit in April on behalf of himself and 'as assignee from the estate of Harold Hammond, deceased.”
The university, on behalf of its now-defunct search committee, has denied the allegations and called for a judge to dismiss the case. A Johnson County judge has not done so, and the case remains on track for trial - as does the more imminent case, which has a court date next week before its November trial.
Attorneys in that case on Oct. 5 expect to spar over a Board of Regents' request that a judge dismiss the case. At that time, Krapf's attorney Gary Dickey expects to lay out evidence the board intentionally circumvented - and thus violated - open meetings laws in the weeks before Harreld's hire.
Specifically, according to new court documents, former board President Bruce Rastetter used his private email account to coordinate closed-door meetings between then-candidate Harreld and four of the board's nine members at his place of work in Alden - which had not been used for regents meetings before or since.
Rastetter, according to emails and court documents, asked the four regents to meet with Harreld in pairs - so not to violate meeting laws requiring openness and public notification when a majority is involved, according to the lawsuit and supplementary information. Transcripts of depositions made public this week reveal Rastetter admitted to coordinating the meetings in such a way to avoid the public requirements. And former board President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland, also involved in the Harreld meetings, knew they were being arranged in such a fashion, according to the court depositions.
'Rastetter chose to invite only four members for no other reason than to avoid the requirements of the Iowa Open Meetings Law,” according to court documents.
Rastetter and former regent Mary Andringa used private email accounts to discuss the meetings, rather than their board accounts, despite board policy to use 'the official board email account when conducting regent business.”
'A fact-finder could conclude from these facts that the serial submajority gatherings were planned and carried out with the specific intent to avoid the requirements of the Iowa open meetings law,” according to court documents. 'Indeed, he or she would be hard-pressed to conclude otherwise.”
Dickey is asking a judge not only to reject the board's request for dismissal but to discredit Rastetter's testimony.
'Rastetter's self-serving testimony that he coordinated the meetings in order to make sure they were ‘in compliance' with the open meetings law is intellectually dishonest at best and intentionally misleading at worst,” according to the documents. 'At every opportunity to provide transparency, he instead chose secrecy. That is evasion; not compliance.”
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