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Rastetter decision the right one

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | AUGUST 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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On Thursday, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board heard presentation defending an ethics complaint against Board of Regents President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter.

The ethics board unanimously decided to throw out the complaint and move forward with its agenda — as it rightfully should.

The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has worked tirelessly to remove Rastetter from his seat on the state Board of Regents and finally had its complaints heard, if only to be determined null and void.

The facts are as follows: Rastetter is the cofounder and managing director of AgriSol Energy LLC. AgriSol has a branch called AgriSol Tanzania, a corporation that rents farmland in Tanzania for the sake of increasing Tanzanian food production. The company planned to involve Iowa State University in an out-grower project allowing students opportunities to work with native farmers in Tanzania.

All could have been utterly noncontroversial, but Rastetter was appointed to the Board of Regents. At that point, his involvement with the company and involvement with ISU became a potential for a conflict of interest.

So, in June 2011 Rastetter filed a report regarding the potential conflict, and shortly thereafter ISU backed out of all plans regarding AgriSol Tanzania.  

“Would it have been better for the project had I not become a regent?” Rastetter said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “You know, we can speculate and debate on that … and maybe they still would be in it.”

However, the controversy did not end when the legitimate controversy did, and so Thursday, the ethics board had to listen to complaints about the character of one philanthropist and entrepreneur because of his poorly reported financial-disclosure statement.

The original statement listed Rastetter as “self-employed” and “farmer.” Though Rastetter is self-employed, the statement neglected to include his investment in AgriSol.

He rectified that situation by filling a financial-disclosure amendment earlier this week.

It’s important to monitor those in power and ensure ethical processes that do improve the community. That being said, wasting the time arguing over moot points is counterproductive and only shifts the focus from the truly important things: in this case, our regent schools.

The project in Tanzania could have been beneficial to our regent schools in that it provided another opportunity for ISU students to study and participate in a world of growing agriculture.

Rastetter said AgriSol Tanzania is not backing down from the project, but the directors are reaching out to other schools so that all parties involved may benefit for the tried and true farming methods.

“I want Iowans to know that this was a project, a good project, that we operated with integrity on how we went about it,” Rastetter said.

He deserves his spot on the Board of Regents. He grew up in Iowa, graduated from the University of Iowa, and has on many occasions given back to the schools. He has been a successful entrepreneur doing that thing Iowans do best: farming.

He has valuable knowledge that he wants to impart to the schools; an understanding of money and efficiency, and legitimate pride for Iowans. Those are all valuable qualities in a regent.


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