Steven Leath (file photo)

During a legislative hearing late this morning, two Democratic lawmakers questioned Iowa State University president Steve Leath about campus hiring decisions, his use of a university-owned plane and where his guns have been.

Leath said it was “well known” when he took the job that he was an avid hunter. Leath indicated he got a waiver to keep his guns in the president’s residence which is in the “guns-free zone” of the Ames campus.

“As part of that, I had to have the ability to transport these things on and off campus and we extended that to the vehicles and the planes because what else can you do with them? I mean, you can’t leave ’em in the yard,” Leath said. “…These are in a secure home with an alarm system in a secure room, in a safe.”

Leath said due the three retirements of key people who approved that gun policy, it’s been hard to find the documents outlining that waiver, but he indicated an audit will be released “this week” on the matter.

Representative Cindy Winckler.

Representative Cindy Winckler, a Democrat from Davenport, also asked Leath if the plane ISU bought for his use will be sold for a loss.

“You can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper,” Leath said in response and Winckler replied: “I understand that.”

Leath continued: “We gained value by having it, although the sales price two and a half years later may be slightly less than the purchase price.”

In addition, Winckler asked Leath about using the plane for personal travel, training flights and fundraising trips on behalf of the university.

“Not only have all the trips that should have been reimbursed, but many of the trips that didn’t need to be reimbursed were reimbursed,” Leath said.

Winckler concluded her questioning of Leath with this statement: “We are asking our students to continually pay more for their education and yet there has been some personal use of state property that probably, in hindsight, wasn’t the best decision to make.”

Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames who is also an ISU economics professor, asked about ISU’s decision to hire two Republicans who used to be members of the Iowa House — including a former House Speaker.

“You hired two politically-connected white males to big, six-figure salaries without advertising either position, without taking any other applications, without interviewing other candidates,” Quirmbach said. “Do you think that this looks like equal opportunity hiring or do you think it looks more like the ‘old boy network’ in full swing?”

Leath told Quirmbach the two were hired by another administrator and Leath said, as president, he “had no reason to oppose them.”

The discussion grew tense and the Republican chairman of the committee intervened.

“President Leath, you don’t have to answer that,” Senator Tim Kraayenbrink of Fort Dodge said.

As Quirmback continued to speak, Kraayenbrink slapped the table with his hand and said: “out of order” several times. A few seconds later, Kraayenbrink told Quirmbach to write down his questions in a letter to Leath.

AUDIO of Quirmbach and Winckler questioning Leath, 19:00