Higher education

Judge denies regents' motion to dismiss Harreld lawsuit

Petition seeks to nullify Bruce Harreld's hire

(File Photo) University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during an interview with The Gazette in his office in Jessup Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
(File Photo) University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during an interview with The Gazette in his office in Jessup Hall on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

A lawsuit against the Board of Regents over meetings members held with Bruce Harreld last year before hiring him as University of Iowa president can proceed, a district judge has ruled.

The lawsuit — filed over the summer in Polk County by Gerhild Krapf, a UI alumnus who had been counsel at the UI Hospitals and Clinics and special assistant to the dean of the College of Law — accuses the board of violating Iowa’s open meetings law by scheduling multiple meetings between several regents and Harreld in proximity and time to one another.

“This case concerns the board’s attempt to avoid transparency into the University of Iowa presidential search process through a series of closed door meetings and other indirect methods that violate the letter and spirit of the Iowa Opens Meetings Act,” Krapf asserted in the petition.

The board last September hired Harreld — a former IBM executive with no academic administrative experience — to replace retired UI President Sally Mason, despite widespread criticism.

In the weeks after his hire, news emerged that Harreld had met with members of the search committee and board when he was a candidate — meetings not afforded to other prospects.

Among those were two at Regents President Bruce Rastetter’s business. One involved Regents Katie Mulholland and Milt Dakovich and another involved Regent Larry McKibben and now-former Regent Mary Andringa.

Before the meetings, Harreld emailed his resume to Rastetter and gave him permission to forward the documents to the other regents, according to media reports and the lawsuit.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Even though five of the nine regents weren’t present at any one meeting, Krapf argued the “gatherings occurred in close temporal proximity to each other.” Her suit seeks to undo “the election of Bruce Harreld.”

In a decision filed Monday, District Court Judge Robert Blink did not rule on any merits of Krapf’s case but found she had met requirements to file the suit and given defendants ample notice to respond.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.