Lawmakers Back U. Iowa President Mason's Actions In Firing Mills After Stolar Report

This story was written by Amanda McClure, The Daily Iowan


Iowalawmakers expressed support for University of Iowa President Sally Mason's decision to fire former UI General Counsel Marcus Mills despite his accusations that the Stolar report, which criticized his handling of the alleged Hillcrest sexual-assault case, was flawed.

"Serious action was taken because it needed to be," said Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville. "I think the situation got all of the facts, and the administration needs to move forward to prevent this from happening again."

In a letter to Mason and copied to Regent President David Miles, Mills listed what he called serious discrepancies and omissions in the Stolar Partnership's report.

The St. Louis-based firm - which investigated the UI's response to the alleged incident - claims Mills had a conflict of interest for representing the UI and the former UI student-athlete who accused two then-Hawkeye football players of sexually assaulting her in October 2007.

Mills submitted his letter, along with a 12-page response to Mason on the same day of his termination, Sept. 23.

The former official said the Stolar report also wrongly accused him of maintaining ill-communication with the victim's family, failing to comply with the district court's order, and failing to produce documents for the regents' investigation.

"There are serious flaws in the Stolar report, both in substance and in process, and I believe those flaws must be identified and corrected in the record," Mills said in the letter. "My response corrects several of the inaccuracies relating to my role in the investigation of the incident."

In addition to Mills, Mason also fired Vice President for Student Services Phillip Jones, who is contemplating suing the university for what he describes as wrongful termination.

UI spokesman Steve Parrott and spokeswoman Linda Kettner not return calls Sunday seeking comment. Mason has previously said administrators should have given their full testimonies during the investigation - not after the Stolar report.

Her argument doesn't surprise lawmakers.

"Obviously, the university and Mills are going to have different stories," Dvorsky said. "This is a tough situation, and that's always the case, but the administration had to act on the facts of the case."

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said the points Mills addressed in his response will come under review in the following months.

Jacoby added Iowa is an at-will state, meaning an employee can be terminated from a position without an explanation.

"I know Marc," Jacoby said. "I know he's an honest and upstanding gentleman, but he obviously made mistakes in judgment. The bottom line is he lives in an at-will state."

Jacoby said the Legislative Oversight Committee supports the actions of the UI, and ultimately, it's not legislators' place to determine the procedures of administrators.

"I support President Mason's decisions following the issue of the report," Jacoby said. "There's a certain level of confidence that you need from your staff, and she acted in the way that she saw best."

Dvorsky said the situation was not handled well, but he was relieved legislative action wasn't necessary.

Mills said on Sunday he doesn't have future plans for the letter but wants the public and the UI to "look at the full story."

"I don't have any specific expectation for my response other than to have the university review and acknowledge it," he said.