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Harty: Ferentz should have made officials aware employee was future son-in-law

[ 0 ] March 7, 2013 |

I have no problem with Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz hiring his future son-in-law as an administrative assistant if he meets the qualifications.

I also have no problem with the University of Iowa calling for a review of whether Ferentz followed proper hiring procedures as was reported by the The Gazette.

The problem I have is that Ferentz told The Gazette that he didn’t see any reason to inform Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta about the circumstances surrounding 27-year-old administrative assistant Tyler Barnes even though saying nothing might have violated the university’s policy on nepotism.

Barnes isn’t your typical administrative assistant because he’s engaged to Ferentz’s 25-year old daughter, Joanne Ferentz.

Barnes was dating Ferentz’s daughter when he was hired in January 2012 for a one-year appointment that paid $32,000 with no benefits, according to the Gazette, but Barnes was given an additional year in November at Kirk Ferentz’s request. The request was granted, along with Barnes receiving a 19 percent pay raise and health and dental insurance, but without UI officials aware that Barnes had become engaged to Ferentz’s daughter six months into his job.

Kirk Ferentz should have made UI officials aware because it’s his responsibility to do so. He should have at least told Barta that Barnes was engaged to his daughter and Barta could have taken it from there.

According to the Gazette, Ferentz and Barta decided not to conduct a job search before the special waiver was granted in November to extend Barnes’ job for another year. The question that begs to be asked is whether Barta would have made the same decision if he knew about the potential conflict of interest.

Barta told The Associated Press today that he would review Barnes’ position and would recommend appropriate action as soon as next week.

It’s hard to say how Barta will rule on this because obviously there was a breakdown in communication at the least. There is also a perception that Ferentz has too much power and leverage because of his lucrative contract, but Barta could crush that perception if he determines that Ferentz violated the policy on nepotism and then takes action.

Barta also could decide that Barnes is qualified for the position and that Barnes shouldn’t have to suffer just for being Ferentz’s future son-in-law. However, that still wouldn’t excuse Ferentz for not reporting all the details about Barnes’ personal life.

My concern more than whether Barnes is the most qualified for his job is that Ferentz didn’t feel there was any reason to report the potential conflict of interest. It’s hard to believe Ferentz would hire somebody who wasn’t qualified for a job, especially a future family member and coming off a 4-8 season. But it’s not hard to believe that Ferentz would take it upon himself to hire somebody without consulting the proper people.

It could be just a simple case of Ferentz being misinformed or unaware of the hiring procedures because, remember, he’s always telling the media that he’s just a football coach and doesn’t know much else besides the game.

That seems hard to believe, though, because of all the attention when Ferentz hired his son, Brian Ferentz, as his offensive line coach in February 2012 from a field of at least 100 applicants.

Barta told the Gazette he didn’t think Ferentz was trying to hide Barnes’ relationship with his daughter. I don’t think Ferentz was trying to hide it, either.

It seems more a case of Ferentz either being oblivious to the process or believing that he should be trusted and left alone in situations like this rather than be questioned and reviewed.

Either way, it’s a breakdown that should not have occurred.

It’s not a serious breakdown powered by deception. But it’s serious enough that it might give the impression that Ferentz doesn’t feel he should have to follow university protocol and that he’s using his power to help those close to him personally.

I’m not saying that’s the truth in this situation, only that it could be perceived that way.

I think Kirk Ferentz is a good and decent man who is loyal to those close to him and confident in their abilities. In this case, Ferentz believes he is helping his future son-in-law while also helping the program.

And while that might be the case, rules and procedures still have to be followed, despite how trivial they might seem.

There could be more qualified candidates than Barnes who would’ve cherished the opportunity to work as an administrative assistant for a BCS program. That’s why UI officials are correct in reviewing whether proper procedures were followed.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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