Why I am suing the UI: To protect tenant's health

BY GUEST COLUMN | JUNE 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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As someone who believes that reasonable people can avoid litigation through honest negotiation, it is with great regret that I must file a lawsuit against the University of Iowa and the state Board of Regents.

My intent is to bring sharp focus to a lack of oversight where the regents' system has failed me and can easily harm others.

This issue stems from the poor maintenance of a UI rental property that went unaddressed despite months of complaints. I was exposed to large quantities of mold, became very ill, and developed a late-in-life mold allergy that continues to cause me misery today.

The worst thing, though, and the reason I am demanding a regents' rule change, is that the UI simply painted over the mold and moved five students into the house the next day.

This unconscionable act has been rationalized at every step up the chain of command. Even the regents — the rule-makers charged with oversight — have whitewashed the matter, declining to do a cursory investigation and employing transparent fabrications to avoid taking responsibility.

I'm not asking a lot, just that the university takes full responsibility for the mismanagement of its property; that I be reimbursed my current and future out-of-pocket expenses; that my stuff — currently stored in a climate-controlled shed — be restored or replaced; and, most importantly, that regents' rules are changed to allow third-party inspectors to scrutinize regent properties.

This last point is important: The current situation has the fox guarding the henhouse. City and county health and housing inspectors refused to get involved because of a regents' rule prohibiting third-party inspections of their homes. Tenants of the UI would be better protected by having a system of checks and balances.

It is a shame that common citizens and decent employees have to resort to lawsuits to have their grievances addressed in the system. At last count, I have raised this issue with more than two dozen responsible parties, including UI President Sally Mason, ombudspersons, a gaggle of state legislators, and gotten nothing but soulless shrugs and spineless hand-wringing. I was even denied the right to present this matter to the regents.

As a loyal employee of the UI who has worked assiduously to build the institution and represent it in the best possible manner everywhere I work around the world, it grieves me to be brought to this point. I have done everything in my power to resolve this issue through formal and less public channels. However, the statute of limitations is about to run out, and I'm tired of waiting for someone with a soul to step up to the plate.

I can expect to endure the full wrath of the state's sizable legal arsenal for years to come; whether or not I prevail in court, Iowa taxpayers need to know the truth.

Cliff Missen
UI faculty

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