IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The University of Iowa abruptly replaced its interim public safety director on Friday, days after The Associated Press reported he had been accused of interfering with an investigation into a drunken hit-and-run accident involving his stepson last summer.
David Visin was removed from his role as an assistant vice president in charge of the campus police force and demoted to an associate director position. The university said veteran officer Lucy Wiederholt would replace Visin during a national search for a permanent replacement.
The moves were announced by the university's vice president, Rod Lehnertz, who had been told by Visin about the June 25 accident shortly after it occurred. University President Bruce Harreld had publicly cleared Visin on Wednesday, saying he hadn't broken the law or violated university policies.
"We don't see any reason to do anything other than what we are already doing," Harreld told Radio Iowa. "Right now we've done all the work and there is nothing there."
Lehnertz said he determined last year that Visin's actions would be handled internally after consulting with the local prosecutor. He said public disclosures about the incident had become a distraction, and the change would allow the Department of Public Safety to focus on "creating a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff."
The AP reported Monday on documents showing that a sheriff's deputy accused Visin of lying and interfering with an investigation after his stepson, Sean Crane, drove into two parked cars after he and Visin left an off-campus bar. The county prosecutor refused for months to release the documents until the AP threatened to file a complaint last week accusing of her violating the state's open-records law.
Police learned the truck involved in the wreck was registered to Crane. Johnson County Deputy Brad Kunkel went to Crane's home, where Crane's wife told him he had just left with Visin and gave him Visin's cellphone number. Kunkel called Visin and asked him to pull over so investigators could interview Crane.
Visin refused, insisting he had to get home to drop off a trailer he was pulling. He then left Crane alone at a gas station before deputies arrived to interview him. Kunkel found Crane intoxicated, shirtless and walking along a county road with a major abrasion on his back that required emergency medical treatment.
On Monday, Visin blamed his actions on diabetes, a condition he said he had hid from colleagues for fear of discrimination. He said his judgment was off because he was suffering from low blood sugar levels and was focused on getting home to eat and inject himself with insulin.
He said he hadn't been drinking that day and was unaware of the accident until Kunkel called him. Crane, who had been ejected from his truck during the accident, later pleaded guilty to a drunken-driving charge after admitting he had been drinking and smoking marijuana.
Kunkel told Visin during a recorded phone call that, as a fellow officer, he should have known the only "reasonable, logical and ethical thing" was to stop when asked to do so by police. He told Visin his decision to leave made it look "like you're trying to hide something."
Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness hasn't explained why she didn't file charges against Visin, who had led the department for 14 months following Chuck Green's retirement. Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek has said his office asked Lyness to consider charges but was told there was no probable cause.
On Friday, Pulkrabek said he wished Wiederholt "the best in her new position."