Profs on leave over allegations cost UI over $400K

BY SAM LANE | DECEMBER 10, 2010 7:10 AM

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Four University of Iowa professors are currently on paid administrative leave pending investigations of alleged misconduct, and they have received more than $461,000 combined since their leaves began, according to information The Daily Iowan obtained through a records request.

University policy prohibits officials from disclosing any of the names of faculty members, but court records show one is UI Assistant Professor Toshiki Itoh and another is Professor Gary Hunninghake.

Itoh, 47, was placed on leave more than two years ago after he was accused of assaulting a former lab assistant. Itoh was recently convicted of the assault, and he faces a retrial — slated to start in February — on a sexual-abuse charge. He is receiving an annual salary of $93,000.

Hunninghake, 63, was charged in April with disorderly conduct for allegedly falsely reporting an offense to Chicago police. He allegedly told officers he was jogging in Chicago early in the morning when three men threatened him and demanded his wallet, authorities said. Hunninghake said the men stabbed him numerous times, but officers later said they believed the story was fabricated and the wounds were self-inflicted. Hunninghake turned himself in to Chicago police.

Hunninghake has been on paid leave with an annual salary of $360,668. UI police recently concluded a seven-month investigation into the professor and Johnson County prosecutors have decided to not bring charges.

Since 2005, 13 UI faculty members have been put on administrative leave, though not all have been because of alleged misconduct. The university has spent nearly $1.5 million in faculty wages for those on leave during that time.

Not all paid leaves from the university are for investigations of misconduct. According to the requested documents, reasons can include developmental or personal leave. UI spokesman Tom Moore said this excludes professional development assignments, also known as sabbaticals.

Moore said a decision in the 1999 Iowa Supreme Court case Simonson v. Iowa State University influences the UI's process of putting faculty on paid leave. In that case, a professor sought a hearing before he was placed on leave. The court ruled the university had the right to remove a person accused of violating public trust from the classroom before a hearing if it didn't result in economic harm.

"It appears the court would not approve of placing a faculty member on unpaid leave while due process is being followed," Moore said. "It appears that avoiding economic harm is an important principle. That's why the university has not placed these faculty members on unpaid leave while we're following due process."

Meanwhile, legislators have mixed feelings on administrative paid leaves.

"It seems like an awful lot of money for not doing what you're supposed to be doing," said Rep. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf.

However, for some, there may not be enough information to make a conclusion about the amount spent on paid administrative leave.

"It's one of those things that might send up a red flag until you have more info," said Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, the future ranking member of the education-appropriations subcommittee.

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