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University of Iowa settles with another top administrator

Its utilities director resigns months after new partnership

Turbine generators at the University of Iowa Power Plant in Iowa City sport tigerhawk logos on Feb. 8, 2019. The UI has
Turbine generators at the University of Iowa Power Plant in Iowa City sport tigerhawk logos on Feb. 8, 2019. The UI has transferred management of its utilities system to private operator ENGIE North America as part of a 50-year, $1.165 billion deal. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has parted ways with another top administrator — its utilities director of 17 years — according to the UI’s 11th settlement agreement in a year and 120th since 2015.

Glen Mowery, who has managed the university’s utilities enterprise since 2003 and was earning $168,715 a year, agreed to resign June 3 and release the UI from his claims against it in exchange for an additional six months of base salary paid out in a lump sum of $84,357.50, the deal shows.

Mowery, according to the settlement, accused his supervisor of engaging in “disparate treatment by excluding (Mowery) from communications/decisions and discussing retirement.” But he has not filed a lawsuit against the university or Board of Regents, according to online court records.

In recent months, Mowery had been serving on the UI’s COVID-19 team within UI Finance and Operations, reporting to Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Don Guckert for that assignment.

In his regular role, Mowery had reported to Lynne Finn, assistant vice president of UI Facilities Management.

Mowery’s resignation comes just three months after the university officially transferred management of its utilities system to private operator ENGIE North America on March 11 as part of a 50-year, $1.165 billion deal.

Although the university maintains ownership of its utilities system, ENGIE will run it for the next five decades — ensuring for itself a steady stream of income in exchange the hefty upfront lump-sum payment. The UI used that payment to pay off utility debt and invest in an endowment.

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UI officials expect to pull $15 million from the endowment annually to use for the campus’ strategic plan, though they don’t expect to use that much in the first year.

As part of the deal, more than 120 UI utilities workers accepted offers to become ENGIE employees. Another 23 opted to remain UI employees and, in some cases, were reassigned.

On the UI Facilities Management website touting the new public-private partnership, an organization chart still shows Mowery atop a tree of more than 40 managers, specialists and supervisors.

The settlement — which was finalized in June — doesn’t mention the new public-private partnership as playing a role in the conflict.

It comes the same month UI signed a high-profile, $1.3 million settlement with former Hawkeye football strength coach Chris Doyle, accused by Black former players of making racist and demeaning comments. The university in June signed two other settlements with unionized workers.

And already in July it signed a deal with former Provost Montse Fuentes, who the UI is paying at her vice president-level salary of $439,000 to continue for the next year as “special assistant to the president.” After the year, Fuentes can remain as a professor, earning about $175,600.

Fuentes’ settlement comes just one year after she started and just months after the university signed a similar high-profile settlement with the campus’ Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion TaJuan Wilson, who started the same day as Fuentes but lasted just six weeks on the job.

Wilson, like Fuentes, was given a “special assignment” that paid him his same $224,000 vice president salary. But Wilson’s agreement specifically allowed him to look for other jobs while on the UI clock.

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The university hasn’t said publicly why Wilson or Fuentes left their posts. Fuentes declined to comment and Wilson has not responded to The Gazette’d requests.

When looking across Iowa’s Board of Regents system, the UI has signed far more settlement agreements than Iowa State University, the smaller University of Northern Iowa and the Board of Regents Office in recent years.

In the last year, the UI has signed 11, while ISU has signed three and UNI and the board office have signed none. Since fiscal 2015, the board has signed one settlement; UNI has signed 10; ISU has signed 15; and UI has signed 120, according to board records.

Correction (added 3:30 p.m. July 21, 2020): The number of settlement agreements has been updated to 120 settlement agreements since 2015. An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect number because some agreements had been duplicated in the dataset.

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