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Iowa State President Apologizes, Reimburses for More Flights

ANKENY, Iowa — Iowa State University President Steven Leath apologized Monday for using university airplanes for some personal trips and said he had paid back the school for additional flights beyond what he had done previously.

Leath told the Iowa Board of Regents during a special meeting in Ankeny that he was “very sorry” for flying more than he had to and on some trips that were now seen as inappropriate.

He said he paid back the university for costs related to flights to and from Rochester, Minnesota, for medical appointments. He said he also paid back costs related to 52 flights that were necessary for his pilot training and certification, saying that could be seen as a “personal benefit.” And Leath said that he had paid back costs related to picking up his brother and sister-in-law in New York on the way to and from an NCAA basketball tournament game in 2014. In all, the university said Leath wrote three checks totaling more than $19,000.

“There are things I should have done differently and I am terribly sorry for that,” Leath said.

Leath’s comments came after the regents received an audit into his use of the university’s two planes during his five-year tenure as president. The regents met for more than 90 minutes Monday afternoon in closed session to evaluate Leath’s job performance.

Before Monday, Leath had already reimbursed the university for $17,500 related to the costs of a landing incident, and $4,600 for four trips to North Carolina that had major personal components to them.

The board ordered the audit in October after The Associated Press revealed that Leath made a hard landing in Illinois while piloting a university plane home from a vacation in North Carolina. Other trips on school planes have since come under scrutiny, as have the school’s decisions to use millions in private donations to buy two newer planes.

Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter said in October that a number of trips appeared to be questionable, at best, and that he was disappointed. He said Leath had been a good school president but that additional action was warranted.

The board’s chief auditor, Todd Stewart, said some of Leath’s flights fall into a gray area of university policy in which it’s not clear whether they are allowed.

The audit found that the costs of Iowa State’s flight services department had shot up by 125 percent during Leath’s tenure. Leath told the board that the university was planning to sell the Cirrus SR-22 plane and is considering whether to shut down the department, which employs two pilots and a third that’s in the process of retiring.

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