Protest planned at Regents meeting

Dan Mackenzie

When the Iowa Board of Regents meets in Cedar Falls on Friday, it can expect a crowd waiting for them.

Protesters from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are planning to hold a rally to call for action against Regent President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter. David Goodner, community organizer for Iowa CCI said the group will have people from all over the state on site to protest.

“Our intent when we go there is to make sure the regents are enforcing their own ethics policy. … [Rastetter] needs to resign or be fired. We want to make sure our message will be heard loud and clear,” Goodner said.

The group claims Rastetter had a conflict of interest stemming from a business deal involving a company he works for, AgriSol Energy, and Iowa State. The deal would have created several large-scale farms to produce corn and soybeans in Tanzania. Several independent reports released about the deal claim the land slated for development was already home to thousands of refugees.

According to Iowa CCI, the conflict of interest arose when Rastetter used his position as a Regent to influence Iowa State to participate in the business deal. The group claims Rastetter wanted to involve to the university to legitimize the deal. The university would have run an education and outreach program, similar to programs already in place in Uganda. The school cut ties with the operation back in February of this year.

Iowa CCI tried twice to get their complaint on the agenda for the Regents meeting but was denied both times. In a letter to Iowa CCI, Robert Donley, executive director of the Board of Regents, said the “complaint to the Board of Regents involves the same facts and circumstances as the complaint [Iowa CCI] filed with the Ethics Board. … Consequently, the Board of Regents is not the appropriate forum for resolving [their] concerns”

Iowa CCI has filed a formal complaint with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure board, the state agency tasked with enforcing ethics violations. That complaint will be heard in an Aug. 24 meeting in Des Moines.