When Michael Richards was appointed to Iowa’s Board of Regents one year ago, he listed about a dozen potential conflicts of interest on forms required by the state.
This month, in updated forms required annually of regents, Richards has pared that down to about five — including his personal philanthropy to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University and donations a company he owns has made to those schools’ foundations.
Of the board’s nine regents — including two new members and Richards, who was serving on an interim basis until senators formally confirmed his appointment earlier this year — four listed potential conflicts, according to updated regent forms. They were Michaels, new regents Nancy Boettger and Nancy Dunkel, and Sherry Bates, who was reappointed to another six-year term this spring after stepping in midterm in 2014 to replace Nicole Carroll.
Richards — a close ally of Gov. Terry Branstad, who appointed him on an interim basis last May after Mary Andringa unexpectedly resigned — cut in half his potential conflicts with the recent sale of Quatro Composites LLC, an Orange City-based firm he co-founded and helped manage that supplied composite structures, components and assemblies for the aerospace industry.
When he joined the board last year, Richards listed numerous possible conflicts involving Quatro, including that its CEO served on the board for the Center for Industrial Research and Service at Iowa State; that it landed two state-funded training grants; and that it received the Iowa Student Internship Grant, funded by the state and administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
Quatro also at the time was working with Iowa State’s Center for Industrial Research and Service on product development and was establishing an industry training project. It reportedly was working with the ISU Center for Nondestructive Evaluation to determine best ultrasound inspection practices.
Over the years, Quatro accepted ISU interns and donated materials to ISU students, according to regent documents.
But, cutting Richards’ ties, Liberty Hall Capital Partners in February announced it had acquired Quatro and planned to integrate it into AIM Aerospace Corp., an independent supplier of aerospace materials.
Richards still lists as potential conflicts Wild Rose Entertainment, which he co-founded, owns and serves as a board member. Wild Rose occasionally gives to UI and ISU. He also lists two family-owned farming businesses as potential conflicts, but did not provide details.
He noted two of his children might pose conflicts. One works as an attorney for a firm that could sell safety equipment and services to the regent universities, and another heads a medical equipment company that could cross paths with one of the institutions but isn’t right now.
Bates also listed her children as possible conflicts. Her daughter, Lisa Bates, is a lecturer at Iowa State and her son is a project manager for Weitz Co., a construction firm that has worked on several ISU projects including its football stadium upgrades and its agriculture biosystems engineering facility.
Weitz currently is serving as construction manager for Iowa State’s $30 million biosciences and Bessey Hall addition.
Boettger’s son, D. Allan Boettger, is senior director of corporate and community outreach for the UI Pomerantz Career Center — the single potential conflict she listed.
Dunkel lists her potential conflict as “director of Principal Bank,” clarifying on the regent website that she serves as a board member for the bank. She didn’t give details of that potential conflict, although Principal Bank is a subsidiary of Principal Financial Group, which lists its chairman, president and CEO as Daniel Houston, co-chairman of the committee charged with helping find a new ISU president.
Board of Regents spokesman Josh Leham said, “There is no conflict of interest at this time.”
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“The conflict of interest form is so that we are aware, in case action were to come before the board that involved a specific issue, and could advise a regent on how to proceed,” he said.