The group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has filed an ethics complaint against a member of the board that oversees the state’s public universities.
Iowa CCI claims Bruce Rastetter used his position on the Board of Regents to advance a business deal in Tanzania involving Iowa State University and his agribusiness company, AgriSol Energy.
Ross Grooters, with CCI, says it’s clear impropriety occurred and public trust was breached. “All in an effort to make millions of dollars in profit by displacing tens of thousands of people from a self sustaining community in Tanzania,” Grooters said at a statehouse news conference today.
In September of last year, Rastetter recused himself from the I.S.U./AgriSol partnership to develop an 800,000 acre farming operation in the east African country. But, Iowa CCI’s Adam Mason said Rastetter had already violated the Regent’s conflict of interest policy.
“Rastetter chose to put his own financial self interest ahead of the interests of everyday Iowans and the educational quality of Iowa’s public universities,” Mason said. “Bruce Rastetter must either resign from the Board of Regents or resign as the president and CEO of the Summit Group and sell his ownership stake in the company.”
The Summit Group owns AgriSol Energy. In its filing with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, Iowa CCI alleges Rastetter falsified a financial disclosure statement with the state ethics board last year. Rastetter was appointed to the Iowa Board of Regents by Republican Governor Terry Branstad last year.
Rastetter, who was the top donor to Branstad’s election campaign in 2010, recused himself from the Tanzania project about four months after becoming a regent. The governor’s office issued a brief statement in response to the Iowa CCI claims, saying “we are fully confident in the judgment of Regent Rastetter on his decision regarding when to recuse himself.”