Higher education

Iowa State President Leath won't face charges in plane use

Rastetter: 'It was clear to us there wasn't any criminal issue involved'

A Cirrus SR22 owned by Iowa State University and piloted by ISU President Steven Leath sustained wing damage, above, during a hard landing in July 2014 at the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Ill. (Photo from Central Illinois Regional Airport)
A Cirrus SR22 owned by Iowa State University and piloted by ISU President Steven Leath sustained wing damage, above, during a hard landing in July 2014 at the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Ill. (Photo from Central Illinois Regional Airport)
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After a monthslong investigation into Iowa State University President Steven Leath’s use of university-owned aircraft, the Iowa Department of Public Safety this week announced no charges will be filed.

The Story County Attorney’s Office earlier this month met with Division of Criminal Investigation agents to present findings on Leath’s plane use, which came under fire in September after multiple news reports — confirmed by ISU statements — showed he used the state aircraft for several trips that involved personal business.

ISU at that time also confirmed Leath, a pilot, had damaged the school’s Cirrus SR-22 in a hard landing more than a year earlier in Illinois and told Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter — although other regents said they weren’t aware until news reports in fall 2016.

After that became public, Leath made $17,500 in donations to the ISU Foundation to cover the cost of the damage, storage and transportation to bring him home. After a regents audit in December raised questions about additional trips, Leath wrote another check for $19,113.

He also vowed to stop flying the Cirrus and sell it, and launch a review of ISU Flight Services — including whether to eliminate the program, which employs three pilots who fly the school’s other plane, a Beechcraft King Air 350, for various school purposes including athletics recruiting.

Alex R. Murphy, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s investigative operations, reported this week that “pursuant to a review of the investigative findings, it was determined that there was no probable cause to substantiate a violation of Iowa law.”

Rastetter said Thursday that news didn’t come as a surprise to the Board of Regents — noting the Story County Attorney’s Office looked into Leath’s plane use because a complaint was filed. She didn’t take it up on her own, he said.

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“It was clear to us there wasn’t any criminal issue involved,” he said. “But it was good to see that that was confirmed by the DCI.”

Lee Hermiston from The Gazette contributed to this report.

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