Higher education

Regents could have findings of Iowa State plane audit by week's end

Board to discuss audit findings at special meeting

Iowa State University President Steven Leath stands for a portrait at the Gazette and KCRG building in Cedar Rapids on W
Iowa State University President Steven Leath stands for a portrait at the Gazette and KCRG building in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, March 04, 2015. (Michael Noble Jr./The Gazette)

An in-depth audit by the Iowa Board of Regents of its university travel practices and policies, which includes a review of each individual flight out of Iowa State University Flight Service since President Steven Leath arrived at the school in 2012, is nearly complete.

Board President Bruce Rastetter said Todd Stewart, chief audit executive for the regents, has indicated he could wrap his review by the end of this week, allowing the board to convene a special meeting on the topic as early as next week.

Findings from the audit are to be made public in connection with that special meeting.

“We will know by the end of this week a specific timeframe on that meeting and announce it,” Rastetter said.

Leath has come under fire in recent months after the school released previously undisclosed details about the president’s use of ISU aircraft and a hard landing with one of those planes that cost the school more than $17,000. Leath was piloting the school’s Cirrus SR22 in summer 2015 when he experienced the hard landing in Illinois.

He didn’t initially offer to cover the costs of the repairs, but — after news broke of the accident — Leath made a donation of $17,500 to the ISU Foundation.

Subsequent media investigations revealed Leath used university aircraft at times for personal business, prompting the Board of Regents in October to request a more detailed look at ISU Flight Service and travel policies and practices at its other public institutions.

ISU officials have denied buying the Flight Service planes specifically for Leath and have justified the costs to purchase and upgrade both the Cirrus and a Beechcraft King Air 350.

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Leath, although denying any malicious intent in his aircraft use, has said he would do things differently in hindsight and has said he’ll no longer pilot the school’s planes. That change, he said, could end up costing the university money and time in efficiency.

The state auditor’s office also is reviewing Leath’s plane use. Details of when that audit might wrap up haven’t been announced.

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