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Swim club demands probe of UI

BY MEGAN DEPPE | OCTOBER 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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At the public hearing for the Transparency Task Force held on Thursday, Donald Spellman, the head coach of the Iowa City Eels Swim Club, requested that the state Board of Regents conduct an independent investigation of the University of Iowa Recreational Services Department The Iowa City Eels Swim Club is a nonprofit club that is run by parents of participants on the team, along with Spellman.

Spellman said that in 2009 a new swim team, the Iowa Flyers, commonly referred to as “I-Fly,” was started by the Recreational Services in the Iowa City area without consulting the Eels board.

Spellman also said there were several conflicts of interest in the Iowa Flyers, including UI Provost Barry Butler. Butler previously served as an Eels board member and as president of the team that broke away in 2009.

The team, then called Hawkeye Aquatics, was eventually dissolved into the Recreational Services team and later became the Iowa Flyers. Rod Lehnertz, director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management, is also listed as a conflict of interest. Lehnertz’s wife, Blanca Castillo-Lehnertz, was once a parent involved in the Iowa City Eels Swim Club and is now the co-head coach of the club that is owned by the UI.

Spellman also contended that the UI club was poaching participants from the Iowa City Eels, which is against USA swimming rules. Reports of intimidation and internal manipulation against the Iowa City Eels have also been reported, as well as records dishonesty. 

“They have not been honest with their budgets or funding of [the Iowa Flyers],” Spellman said. Spellman said that he has attended nine meetings with UI President Sally Mason, UI Vice President of Student Life Tom Rocklin and UI Deputy General Counsel Gay Pelzer.

A complaint against Recreational Services has been filed but is still unresolved. Spellman said that he did not trust the university to conduct a thorough internal investigation and therefore asks for the regents to step in.

“After watching what took place in 2007, with the sexual assault of a swim-team member and the scapegoating of Marcus Mills during that time, I feel that I don’t trust the UI to conduct a thorough investigation,” Spellman said. Spellman asks for an apology from the Recreational Services to the Iowa City Eels, to hold Mason accountable for “unethical” actions during the formation of the Iowa Flyers program, to make sure that other nonprofit organizations are not targeted in the same fashion in future, and that Recreational Services settle the current complaint.

It also suggested in the meeting that a regent recuse himself from this investigation. Spellman contended that Regent Robert Downer should be removed from the investigation, because he lives in Iowa City and knows many involved in the conflict on both a personal and professional level.


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