Lawsuit against University of Iowa presidential search committee settled

Without admitting wrongdoing, the UI settles a lawsuit against the UI presidential search committee for $55,000.


Margaret Kispert

Former state Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter announces the appointment of Bruce Harreld as the new UI president during a meeting in the IMU on Sept. 3, 2015. Harreld is the 21st president of the UI.

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

A lawsuit related to the search process that resulted in the hiring of Bruce Harreld as University of Iowa president in 2015 was recently settled, with the university paying the plaintiff $55,000 to cover attorney fees while not admitting wrongdoing.

The settlement outlines requirements for a UI presidential search committee to post meeting notices and agendas at least three business days before meetings; live stream audio and video for the open portions of the meetings and make those tapes available online for at least 90 days following the president’s selection; and provide training to the search committee on Iowa’s open-meetings law.

Those terms of the settlement agreement pertain to a lawsuit initially filed by UI Professor Emeritus Harold Hammond in September 2015 days after the state Board of Regents hired Harreld, a former IBM executive with no administrative experience in higher education, as the 21st UI president.

RELATED: Regents recount secret meetings held prior to hiring Harreld as UI president

The regents came under scrutiny for their conduct during the hiring process and for the decision to hire Harreld, who was ranked the least popular of the final four candidates in a survey conducted by the UI chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The results showed that 2.9 percent of the 442 respondents felt Harreld was qualified for the job.

Hammond accused the search committee of holding some meetings in locations not convenient or accessible to the public; holding closed meetings in violation of procedures in accordance with open-meetings law; and considering matters in closed session that should have been deliberated in the open.

UI Professor Emeritus John Menninger refiled the lawsuit in April 2017 “as an assignee from the estate of Harold Hammond” after Hammond died June 12, 2016. It makes the same allegations against the 21-member search committee plus its two nonvoting members.

RELATED: Timeline of events: UI 2015 presidential-search process

A trial for the case had been set for Nov. 27, but it is now canceled after the settlement.

Menninger’s case was not the first filed against the UI or the regents in relation with the 2015 presidential search process. Former UI administrator Gerhild Krapf accused the regents of violating open-meetings laws by meeting privately with Harreld in 2015 during the recruitment process.

In October 2017, a judge sided with the five current and former regents who had been accused of violating open-meetings law. Krapf appealed that ruling, meaning that case is still alive in the state court system.