Education

With departure of five employees, Iowa Regents office loses 94 years of experience

General counsel, communications director among those leaving

The Iowa Board of Regents meets in the main lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa Campus Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)
The Iowa Board of Regents meets in the main lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa Campus Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Iowa City. (Gazette file photo)

The board that governs Iowa’s public universities and special schools is parting ways with at least five office staff members, resulting in a combined loss of 94 years of experience.

Among the most tenured and most public of the Board of Regents’ departing employees is longtime communications director Sheila Doyle Koppin, who joined the office in 1986 and took on communications duties in 2006. Of Koppin’s departure, Executive Director Robert Donley said the board “is always evaluating staffing needs to look for ways to be more efficient and effective with taxpayer dollars.”

“It was determined that Sheila’s position job duties could be absorbed by other staff,” Donley said in a statement provided by Josh Lehman, who started as the board’s senior director of communications June 15 — two weeks before Koppin’s last day Friday.

The board declined to comment on whether Koppin was fired or chose to resign.

According to Lehman’s contract, he will make an annual salary of $100,000 plus regular benefits. He also was given “reasonable relocation expenses.” His initial contract is for one year, and his performance will be evaluated annually, according to the contract.

Koppin made about $76,530 in the 2014 budget year, according to the state salary book.

Thomas Evans, general counsel for the board, also will be leaving his position “in the near future,” but Lehman said he’s still employed by the board and does not have a last day scheduled. An email sent June 16 to board and university officials advises human resources and legal matters be directed either to Donley or the board’s associate counselors.

Evans takes with him 11 years of board experience, having joined the staff in 2004 after previously serving as director of human resources for Polk County, labor relations manager for Polk County, and assistant attorney general for the state.

Three other staff members took advantage of an early retirement plan offered to eligible employees in March — Marcia Brunson, Ilene Tuttle, and Ann McCarthy.

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Brunson, policy and operations officer, joined the board office in 1984; Tuttle, executive assistant, joined the office in 1997; and McCarthy came to the office in 2010 — first serving two years as the state relations officer assigned to Iowa State University before becoming the board’s policy and information officer in 2012.

The early retirement incentive — available to employees age 57 or older with at least 10 years of service to the board or state and any other employees with at least 20 years of service — specified that eligible employees had to fully retire no later than July 1.

Brunson and Tuttle worked their final day Wednesday, according to Lehman. McCarthy’s last day was June 12. Their departures leave the board with 19 employees, including Evans.

The board last year launched a sweeping efficiency review of its system, and each university is implementing administrative suggestions aimed at cutting costs, increasing revenue, and providing better customer service. A consulting firm hired to conduct the efficiency review identified eight prime opportunities it believed could save tens of millions of dollars and cut more than 250 positions across the three campuses.

Those eight opportunities did not specifically include the Board of Regents Office, although the firm did assess the office’s operations and highlight strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improved efficiency.

One suggestion urged evaluation of options to adjust the board’s operating model, which it listed as both a strength and weakness.

On one hand, according to the consultant, the small office staff represents less than .01 percent of the total system budget, making it “one of the leanest in the nation.” On the other hand, the staff has “limited capacity and resources to meet all of the needs of the system from a governance, coordination, and oversight perspective,” according to the consultant.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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