Iowa State could lose thousands on sale of president's plane

An airplane that nearly cost Iowa State University President Steven Leath his job has more bad news: a lower-than-expected sale price.

Contradicting his claim two months ago that the sale should turn a profit, the university now expects to lose tens of thousands of dollars unloading the Cirrus SR-22 it purchased for Leath's travel 2 years ago. Leath has faced months of scrutiny over revelations that he damaged the plane in a hard landing and used it for dozens of questionable flights, but the Board of Regents in December decided to retain him after he pledged to sell the plane and take other corrective actions.

A notice seeking a broker to handle the sale says Iowa State will likely list the 2011 Cirrus between $429,000 and $480,000, and is willing to negotiate to have it sold within 90 days. That would be less than what a university statement called the "exceptional price" of $498,000 it paid in 2014 " even before the broker is paid a likely five-figure fee.

Such depreciation wouldn't be unusual. But Leath told reporters in December that he expected to make money or break even on the planned sale, which was announced the same day an audit found he used it for a mix of official and personal business. He said the plane, purchased with donations, was a great bargain because the Wisconsin couple who previously owned it were Iowa State fans who wanted the school to have it.

The 17-page Request for Proposal, posted online Feb. 3, says the chosen broker will confirm the market appraisal and advertise the plane nationally. Brokers have until Wednesday to submit offers, which ISU will evaluate based on cost and other factors. Brokers typically earn around 5 percent of the price, which would be $22,500 on a $450,000 sale. Iowa State wants to pay a fixed fee.

University spokespersons haven't responded to questions about the sale.

After acquiring the plane, Leath used it for flight lessons to earn an instrument rating that allowed him to fly himself. His instructor was former lawmaker Jim Kurtenbach, who was appointed around the same time an ISU vice president and didn't charge for lessons.

A Board of Regents audit found Leath was the pilot or passenger on 72 of 76 known trips the Cirrus took. Leath claimed the business justification for 52 of them was for pilot proficiency, training and certification.

He reimbursed ISU $14,575 for those trips after the audit, saying he now sees why his flight training may be viewed as a personal benefit. He had previously reimbursed $4,600 for four trips to his North Carolina home that were partly personal.

Leath stopped flying the plane after The Associated Press reported in September that he damaged it in a hard landing in July 2015 that hadn't been made public. The university spent $14,000 replacing the left wing flap and the right wing tip.

The damage, which wasn't reported as required by policy to the Office of Risk Management, isn't mentioned in the notice but could ultimately affect the price. Leath has since reimbursed the university for the full damage cost.

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Follow Ryan J. Foley on Twitter at "https://twitter.com/rjfoley

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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