Dvorsky accuses Branstad of “petty politics” over Miles’ resignation

BY LUKE VOELZ | JULY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Some officials are blaming “petty politics” for the resignations of state Board of Regents President David Miles and President Pro Tem Jack Evans.

Miles announced his resignation as regents’ president Monday following a request from Gov. Terry Branstad. Miles and Evans, whom Branstad also asked to resign, will become regular regents rather than serve out their executive positions through April 2012.

In his letter of resignation Monday, Miles wrote he stepped down because of an ongoing debate between the regents and state government over legislative issues and selecting a new President for Iowa State University.

“Already, decision-making has become more difficult, and time is being taken from the ongoing work of the board,” Miles wrote in his letter. “In our judgment, anything that distracts the board from its mission or that weakens the board’s collective resolve must go by the wayside.”

Branstad’s communication director, Tim Albrecht, said the governor appreciated Miles’ work but wanted a regents’ president more focused on electing a new Iowa State University president and working under current budget constraints.

“Gov. Branstad does believe it’s important to have leadership in place that has the full faith and confidence of the governor,” Albrecht said. “Given the critical needs of this leadership institution moving forward, a leadership change did need to occur.”

He said previous Iowa governors have made similar decisions, asking for regent presidential resignations.

Branstad recommended Miles’ position be filled by Craig Lang, an ISU alumnus and member of American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors, Albrecht said. A president pro-tem has not been recommended.

The resignations have prompted concern of political bias from some Iowa legislators.

“The governor needs to stop campaigning and start governing,” said Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville. “Petty politics are being carried out here. To lose that expertise and men of that high caliber makes no sense.”

Dvorsky also said he believes Branstad’s decision was influenced by the regents’ vote to name an Iowa State University building after Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Lang, like Branstad, is an active Republican, and he openly opposed the naming of the Harkin Institute at ISU in April. Other regents, including Miles, voted in favor of the decision, which GOP members of the Iowa Senate opposed.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said he understood having a regents’ president the governor supports.

“It sounds like the governor is asking for someone compatible with his views to chair the board,” he said.

Regent Bob Downer said he doubted Branstad’s request had partisan influence.

“I have not felt that partisanship has been a significant factor in any vote we have taken on the board, with the exception of project labor agreements,” Downer said. “While there could be perception this is motivated by partisanship, my guess is it’s not going to make a lot of difference as to the outcome of partisan issues.”

While he doubted a direct political motivation, Downer said, Miles and Evans likely stepped down to avoid conflict.

The regents are scheduled to meet by telephone today at 2 p.m., when they are expected to elect a new board president and president pro-tem.

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