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Iowa CCI continues call for Rastetter resignation after Murphy appointment

BY KRISTEN EAST | NOVEMBER 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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A recent change in state Board of Regents positions has prompted some Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members to revisit their accusations that Regent President Pro-Tem Bruce Rastetter is abusing his power as a regent and has engaged in several conflicts of interest with Iowa State University.

Ann McCarthy, the current regents’ state-relations officer assigned to Iowa State University, will work in a new role effective Nov. 19. She will work on the coordination of economic development policy for the regents, according to a regents’ press release.

In McCarthy’s place, Joe Murphy, director of public affairs for the Summit Group, will fill the state-relations officer position. Murphy was previously the state-relations officer for the University of Northern Iowa for three years before working with the Summit Group — an umbrella company that owns AgriSol Energy, where Rastetter is the cofounder and managing director.

“We’re fortunate to have Joe rejoin our staff and focus his attention on Iowa State,” regents’ Executive Director Robert Donley said in the release.

Yet Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member David Goodner said he and other group members suspect Rastetter played a part in helping Murphy obtain his new position.

“We’ve been saying for a long time that there needs to be a firewall between Rastetter’s private business interest and his public duties as a regent,” he said. “This is a clear example of why Iowans cannot trust this man to be a regent.”

Murphy insists that his new position at Iowa State is not a conflict of interest and that Rastetter had nothing to do with the job offer.

“I don’t think it’s a conflict at all,” Murphy told The Daily Iowan. “The job I’m taking at Iowa State is literally identical to what I had at UNI.”

Prior to working for Summit Group, Murphy worked at UNI for three years.  Murphy is a graduate of UNI and is pursuing graduate work at Drake University, a press release said.

“I guess you could say I took a hiatus to work in the private sector for the past 14 months,” he said. “When the opportunity came to go back to my roots in higher education, I leapt at the opportunity.”

Regent Robert Downer said he wants to look deeper into the matter before he makes any judgment calls.

“I guess I would need to know more about his duties in that position and if there are any specific areas where what he has done for the Summit Group might conflict,” he said. “I’m just not that familiar with how the position might be designed at this point in time.

The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed an ethics complaint against Rastetter with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board in June, maintaining there was a conflict of interest involving Iowa State University and AgriSol Energy Tanzania — the Tanzanian arm of Iowa firm AgriSol Energy.

The DI has previously reported that AgriSol reached out to Iowa State officials to put together an outreach program to work with small Tanzanian farmers. Brian Meyer, the director of college relations for ISU, previously told the DI AgriSol officials wanted to form a similar outreach program in Tanzania.

Iowa State officials backed out of the program in February partially because of negative media attention surrounding AgriSol Tanzania.

The citizens’ group continues to call for Rastetter’s resignation from the regents.

DI reporter Cassidy Riley contributed to this story.


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