Iowa State president often flies himself to events
AMES – Iowa State University President Steven Leath is a pilot and sometimes flies himself to events around the state, a practice that has some Iowa Board of Regents members worried about his safety.
Leath said flying is cheaper than driving on some trips because his state-paid salary makes his time a valuable commodity.
He’s paid almost $467,000 a year.
Other times he’ll fly because it’s the only way to attend events in different parts of the state.
“Some of it is balancing against the salary,” Leath said. “Some you just have to look at the importance of the event. If you’ve got two on the same day, then flying is your only choice.”
Leath told The Des Moines Register there’s no university policy or budget restriction that governs whether he should hit the highways or the skyways.
Leath flew or was a passenger in a private plane at least 25 times over a 17-month period from January 2010 through May 2013.
Regents President Bruce Rastetter said he’s not aware of any board members wanting to include flying restrictions in Leath’s contract.
The board oversees the state’s three public universities.
“I just encourage him with the weather and everything to be safe,” Rastetter said.
Regent Bob Downer said he had no “huge concerns.”
“I’d feel more comfortable if there was a co-pilot with him,” Downer said.
“It’s obviously something where you can get yourself into trouble pretty quickly.”
The contracts of high-salaried employees, such as chief executives, rarely include restrictions on method of travel or other activities, said Tom Foley, an employment attorney in Des Moines.
“Where do you draw the line – no motorcycles, no smoking, no use of alcohol?” he said. “It’s very uncommon.”