Timeline of events in Iowa State president's planes scandal

AP News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2016 11:01 AM

AMES, Iowa (AP) — The governing board of Iowa's public universities is expected to decide Monday whether to take action against Iowa State University's president for his use of school planes. The Board of Regents will hold a special meeting in which it will get the summary of an audit of Steven Leath's use of the planes during his five years as president. It is then expected to go into closed session to review Leath's job performance.

Here is a timeline of key events:

— Jan. 1, 2012: Leath, a former University of North Carolina System vice president, starts as president of Iowa State University. A pilot and flight enthusiast, he makes quick use of a university fleet that consists of a 1977 King Air and a small 1978 four-seat Piper plane.

— 2012-mid-2014: Leath flies the Piper around the state to official meetings and travels in the King Air flown by the university's pilots. On five occasions, the university also pays to rent a newer, faster 2004 Cirrus SR-22 for Leath to fly to business meetings.

— March 2014: The university's King Air stops in Horseheads, New York, and picks up Leath's brother and sister-in-law on the way to watch Iowa State compete in the NCAA basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. The plane drops them off afterward. Leath later contends university pilots made the decision to stop there both times to refuel.

— Spring 2014: The university's foundation uses donations to buy a 2002 King Air for $2.8 million and then spends $600,000 installing upgrades to its safety, electronics and entertainment systems.

— Summer 2014: Leath uses his discretion with unrestricted private donations to buy a 2011 Cirrus SR-22 for $498,000. As part of the deal, the university trades in the Piper for $28,000.

— August 2014: Leath damages a private plane while making a hard landing. This comes to light months later when he has to disclose it as a loss on a university aviation insurance application.

— October 2014 through January 2015: Leath continues to train on the Cirrus and earns an instrument rating, which allows him to fly by himself in all conditions. His flight instructor is Jim Kurtenbach, who offers his services free of charge.

— November 2014: The university announces that Kurtenbach, a former Republican lawmaker and longtime university professor and administrator, has been named its chief information officer, cancelling a nationwide search that had been planned.

— July 2015: Leath damages both wings on the university's Cirrus in a hard landing at the airport in Bloomington, Illinois. He and his wife had flown to their mountain home in Jefferson, North Carolina, for an 11-day vacation, and were returning to Ames at the time. The university covers the $14,000 in damage and sends the King Air to pick up the couple. Leath does not tell the Iowa Board of Regents about the incident.

— August 2015: The Board of Regents votes to extend Leath's contract through June 2020. The contract gives Leath $1,500 per month for a car allowance but doesn't mention what access he'll have to the school's planes.

— Fall 2015: Leath tells the board's president, Bruce Rastetter, about the hard landing, which resulted in him having to take a Federal Aviation Administration check ride to keep his license. Rastetter doesn't share this with the full board.

— September 2016: The Associated Press breaks the news about Leath's hard landing in Illinois. Leath says he will repay the university $17,500 for accident-related costs and stop flying himself. Leath acknowledges that he had taken the Cirrus on at least four trips that mixed business and personal uses, and that he previously reimbursed the university $4,600 for doing so.

— September 2016: The university removes an online database that listed the names of passengers, costs and destinations of flights taken through Iowa State's flight services program. Several of the flights had taken Leath to and from the North Carolina town where he owns a home. Passengers had included Leath's best friend, Bill Dougherty, and professional bow hunter John Dudley.

— October 2016: The Board of Regents orders an audit into every flight Leath and others have taken on university planes during his presidency. Rastetter says that several trips appear to be questionable.

— December 2016: The board receives the results of the audit and schedules a special meeting to discuss Leath's performance.

Source: AP research