Iowa Supreme Court to consider ISU case

Makayla Tendall

Iowa Supreme Court will consider whether Dennis Smith, a former Iowa State University employee, will receive the whistle-blower award for reporting his supervisor for theft and if Smith’s supervisors purposely caused him emotional harm.

Smith, a former communications and marketing employee for the department of engineering, filed a report in April of 2007 stating that he believed his supervisor, Pamela Reinig, had improperly billed an outside agency for work done for the department of engineering.

An internal audit later determined Reinig stole $58,000 owed to Iowa State University. Reinig later resigned and was convicted of theft. Smith’s report did not reach Gregory Geoffory, the president of Iowa State University at the time, until August of 2007.

Smith’s report would have qualified him for a $784,027 whistle-blower award.

Another employee, Eric Dieterle, Reinig and College of Engineering Dean Mark Kushner were also found guilty of making false police reports, stating that Smith was a threat to public safety as he was violent and dangerous.

Smith was fired following a department reorganization in 2010.

In a lawsuit against the university, Smith was originally awarded more than $1.2 million in 2012 by District Court Judge Kurt Stoebe. Iowa appealed the case, which upheld the emotional distress allotment but threw out the whistle-blower award.

Both Smith and his supervisors agreed that the workplace was dysfunctional, but Diane Stahle, the attorney representing Iowa State, said the false reports made about Smith were not severe enough to necessitate a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Smith’s attorney said the fact that Smith reported the theft and the length of time Smith suffered retaliation justifies the award.

The Iowa Supreme Court will issue a ruling at a later date.