Metro Brief: Judge nixes move to dismiss lawsuit against regents


One year after University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld was hired as the successor to former UI President Sally Mason, a judge has declined to dismiss a lawsuit against the state Board of Regents concerning Harreld’s hiring.

Former UI administrator Gerhild Krapf filed a lawsuit arguing that five regents, including Regent President Bruce Rastetter, violated the Iowa Open Meeting Act by meeting privately with Harreld prior to selecting him as UI president.

After the American Association of University Professors sanctioned the UI this past summer about the hiring of Harreld, some disagreed with the decision and said the sanction should instead have been directed toward the regents.

According to AAUP guidelines, governing boards such as the regents cannot be sanctioned. However, Krapf’s lawsuit could potentially provide another avenue for critics of the regents’ actions.

In the lawsuit, Krapf alleges that Harreld and some regents gathered in a series of closed meetings throughout July 2015 to discuss Harreld’s candidacy for UI president. Krapf also contends that Rastetter, along with other regents, actively recruited Harreld for this position.

The defendants filed for a motion to dismiss Krapf’s lawsuit July 11, arguing that the lawsuit presented a purely legal question of whether Iowa recognizes these serial meetings in 2015 as one meeting under the open-meetings law. Iowa 5C District Judge Robert Blink denied the motion for dismissal on Monday.

According to Blink’s decision, various previous rulings on the open-meetings law allow that a meeting may be defined as a time when “a majority of board members has gathered, either in person, electronically, or by agent, and deliberated within close temporal proximity of each other.”

Monday’s decision stated that this was not an evaluation of the merits of Krapf’s lawsuit. Rather, “the court’s duty to examine whether plaintiff has stated a claim and given defendants fair notice of the incident from which the claim arises.”

— by Molly Hunter and Marissa Payne

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