Saturday, October 25, 2014


Civic Skinny

Are days numbered for the Bob Feller Museum? College president blasts colleague. More on Bubu.

2/12/2014

The Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter is in danger of folding. It is closed for the winter and it hopes to reopen by Opening Day this spring, but the future is unclear. “Since Bob passed away in 2010, it’s no secret that the museum lost its heart and passion,” Brandon Sawalich, a Minnesota businessman who is president of the museum, told museum members in a letter the other day.

“In addition to losing a legend, we also lost a business model that had supported the museum for many years. When Bob was alive, his friends would make appearances at the museum at much-reduced rates, if for any rate at all, and then Bob would oblige one of their requests for his appearance at a later date.” At the same time, membership has dropped to fewer than 100 from nearly 400, “and, quite simply, we are out of money,” Sawalich wrote.

One possibility: The museum will close up shop in Van Meter and the Feller artifacts will move to Cleveland, where he was a great pitcher for 18 seasons until 1956. Meantime, according to Sawalich, the museum’s most valuable possession — “Bob’s bat that Babe Ruth held” — will be on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year, which doesn’t bode well for Van Meter. …

More on Bubu Palo, the Iowa State basketball player who isn’t playing basketball:

After the Story County attorney dropped criminal charges and after an administrative law judge said there was no basis for university allegations of sexual misconduct in violation of the school’s code of conduct, the university appealed to itself and ISU President Steve Leath reversed the judge and kicked Palo off the team. The Board of Regents then upheld its president.

DM Art Center
This isn’t the best of campaign photos, but when you can’t drive to the photography store it will do. It’s the mug shot of Tony Bisignano, who spent two days in Polk County jail in late January after pleading guilty to a second offense of drunk driving, a jailing that apparently has gone unreported. Bisignano, head of the human-services department of Polk County, is one of three Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for the Iowa Senate seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch. The others are former legislator Ned Chiodo and assistant attorney general Nathan Blake. The district, which covers Sherman Hill and much of the south side of Des Moines, is heavily Democratic.

This isn’t the best of campaign photos, but when you can’t drive to the photography store it will do. It’s the mug shot of Tony Bisignano, who spent two days in Polk County jail in late January after pleading guilty to a second offense of drunk driving, a jailing that apparently has gone unreported. Bisignano, head of the human-services department of Polk County, is one of three Democrats seeking the party’s nomination for the Iowa Senate seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch. The others are former legislator Ned Chiodo and assistant attorney general Nathan Blake. The district, which covers Sherman Hill and much of the south side of Des Moines, is heavily Democratic.

A district court judge stayed that order — with harsh words for the Regents and the university — and the Regents then asked the Iowa Supreme Court to, first, stay the order of the district judge and, second, immediately hear an appeal. At the end of January, the Supreme Court in terse language rejected both requests.

Meantime, The Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson interviewed Leath, who defended his decision to kick Palo off the team and to show that the university’s justice system — in which the university is both prosecutor and judge — isn’t unfair. “The last six student-athlete misconduct cases that came before us, every single one of them, was ruled for the student athlete except this one — and that should tell everybody something.”

Something, perhaps, but not much.

Cityview asked John McCarroll, the university’s public-relations guy, for four things: The names of the six athletes; the allegations — what part of the student code was allegedly violated, and what was the alleged misconduct; who brought the charges in the first place; and the dates of Leath’s decisions.

McCarroll says that Leath “was referring to cases categorized as serious and could result is dismissal from a team.” He says “penalties (not dismissal) were assessed in each of these cases.” He further says that the Palo case was the only case appealed to Leath, that the other cases were handled on a lower level and not appealed.

But what were they? “The allegations included: OWI, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, possession of a controlled substance, and domestic assault with injury.” The Department of Athletics brought the charges.

But who were the athletes? Under federal law, McCarroll says, “we cannot release the names of the student-athletes.”

So this is the situation: Unnamed athletes, who didn’t appeal charges ranging from drunk driving to possession of dope to criminal mischief to domestic assault with injury, were allowed to stay on their teams. But Bubu Palo, whose criminal charges of sexual misconduct were dropped by the County Attorney and who was cleared by an administrative law judge who said the code-of-conduct charges were “unfounded,” was kicked off the team.

University justice — besides letting the university serve as prosecutor and judge — is super-secret. The original allegations of violating the student code are still under seal in the courts; the administrative law judge’s report that the allegations were unfounded is under seal; Leath’s decision is under seal; and the Board of Regents’ decision upholding Leath is under seal. The main document not under seal is the ruling of the district court — a ruling by a judge who read the record and then blasted the university and the Regents.

Some of those privileged few who have seen the documents say things like “if you could see the documents, you’d agree.” But, of course, no one can see those documents.

Note: Palo was one of four Cyclones to play in all 32 games in the 2010-2011 season and was a second team Academic All-Big 12 selection. In the 2011-12 season, he played in 21 games and missed 13 because of a broken wrist. He was a first-team Academic All-Big 12 pick. Last season, he played in 17 games after being suspended for the first 18 games because of the criminal charges, which ultimately were dropped.

Although he has suited up since being reinstated to the team, the coaches have not sent him in. …

Don’t sit Iowa Wesleyan President Steve Titus next to his predecessor, Simpson President Jay Simmons, at your next dinner party. Titus recently eliminated 40 jobs at Iowa Wesleyan, and then got pretty defensive about it. Explaining the move, he wrote an email to presidents of all the other Iowa private colleges and universities — including Simmons — and said that when he took over, Iowa Wesleyan was “an institution steeped in complacency, sloppy operations and zero accountability.”

Iowa Wesleyan, he said, “has been grossly over-expensed for years and it’s not been dealt with, until now.” He referred to “years and years of mismanagement.” As for rumors the school will close, they “are just that, rumors.” And he added, “I sure as hell did not move my wife, Sara, and our two young daughters to Mount Pleasant to close anything.” The letter hasn’t gone over very well with his colleagues. …

The board of Iowa Public Radio is changing again. The Board of Regents last week voted to put Lin Larson of the University of Iowa and Scott Ketelsen of the University of Northern Iowa on the board, replacing Iowa’s Marc Braun and UNI’s Gloria Gibson. Larson is director of “University Creative Services,” part of the communication and marketing department at the school, and Ketelsen is director of university relations at UNI.

They join Iowa State’s John McCarroll — recently named to succeed founding director Warren Madden — and the four public directors: Doug West, Steve Firman, and recently named JoAnn Johnson and Mary Kramer. The moves come after a year or more of turmoil in which the then-board fired chief executive Mary Grace Herrington — and then paid her an extra $150,000 in settlement for the ham-handed way it was handled — and then settled two lawsuits alleging it was violating the Iowa Open Meetings Law. Polk County District Court Judge Larry McLellan concluded IPR didn’t comply with the Open Meetings Law and enjoined them from future violations of the law, saying the injunction will be enforced “under penalty of civil contempt.” The suits also led to the resignation of board chair Kay Runge. Kramer now is the chairwoman. …

Job watch: Nonfarm employment in Iowa was 1,535,000 in December, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, down 13,500 from a month earlier. That puts the total up about 35,000 from three years ago, when Gov. Terry Branstad took office — and promised to create 200,000 new jobs in five years. He’s not there yet. CV

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