Two members of the Board of Regents responded Wednesday to criticism from a legislative leader over the resignations of two board members and the pending resignation of a third. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, suggested University of Iowa leaders set things in motion behind the scenes to prompt the resignations of Board President John Forsyth, and Regent Dave Neil. Both had ties to Wellmark/Blue Cross/Blue Shield and resigned after heated discussions over the insurance company’s contract with the U-of-I Hospitals. Regent President pro-tem Robert Downer of Iowa City read a statement following a committee meeting on the University of Iowa Hospitals. “We firmly believe the five institutions governed by the Board of Regents not only accept the board’s oversight, but embrace it, ” Downer says. He says the Iowa system has been recognized as one of the finest in the country and “has served Iowa very well for nearly 100 years and will do so far into the future.” Downer says the Regents have met many times in the recent months with the governor and legislators to discuss plans to transform the system. “The Board of Regents and its institutions will continue to work with Representative Rants, the entire Iowa General Assembly, and Governor Vilsack to advance the board’s transformation plan and its benefits to Iowans.” Downer says together they can keep quality high of the state universities high and the tuition affordable. Regent Amir Arbisser of Davenport says the discussions surrounding the hospital were nothing out of the ordinary. He says “the people who left probably do not feel that they had an adequate understanding of the degree of governance which was going on in some of the discussions and negotiations over the past few months. And as a result there’s been some pretty vitriolic, unnecessarily vitriolic remarks. The truth is this board as you see has been conducting business as usual.” Arbisser says it was Forsyth himself who brought the meetings regarding the hospital into the open, and he admits that’s been a process that’s taken some getting used to. He says some people suggested that University of Iowa President David Skorton and the hospital administrators don’t respond to governance. “And I take umberance at that. I find that they’re extremely responsive,” Arbisser says. Arbisser says he can’t understand why Neil, who’s Iowa U-A-W president, resigned. “The thing that gripes me is hearing a union guy, who has spent his whole live having strikes in order to get two parties to sit down and negotiate a contract, thinking that this was unusual form of doing business. That was astounding to me,” Arbisser says. In another development yesterday, Governor Vilsack appointed Neil to be the State Labor Commissioner. The Regents held the hospital committee meeting in Iowa City Wednesday, and the board will hold its regular meeting there today (Thursday).
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