- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The governing board for Iowa’s three public universities is cutting ties with the man who has served as its top lawyer for over a decade, as part of several ongoing personnel changes.

Thomas Evans, Jr., the general counsel for the Iowa Board of Regents since March 2004, will soon no longer be employed there and his legal duties have already been transferred to others, according to a June 16 memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Evans, the board’s second-highest paid employee with a $155,500 annual salary, has been the board’s chief negotiator for labor union contracts and advised the regents and schools they govern on numerous legal and human resources matters.

News of his departure has surprised some colleagues but no official explanation has been given. The move comes amid other changes at the board’s Urbandale office, where three long-time staff members - but not Evans - recently took advantage of an early retirement program aimed at cutting costs.

Josh Lehman, who started this month in a newly created job as the board’s senior communications director, had initially refused to confirm that Evans was departing, saying he could not comment on a confidential personnel matter. But in response to an AP open records request, he released a memo sent on behalf of board executive director Bob Donley that informed top university officials around the state that Evans “will be leaving his position with the Board in the near future.”

“During this transition period all legal, human resources or other matters that might fall within the scope of Regent General Counsel responsibility should be directed to” Donley or two board lawyers who worked under Evans, the memo said.

Lehman declined to say when Evans’ last day would be or the reason behind the move. He said there was no severance agreement.

Board President Bruce Rastetter didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Regent Larry McKibben, a Marshalltown attorney who has been overseeing a review aimed at finding efficiencies and cutting costs at the universities, said he had no information about Evans’ departure but that it wasn’t related to his review. He said he had been satisfied with Evans’ legal work during his two years on the board.

Reached by phone at his home, Evans declined comment and didn’t respond to an email.

Evans, 63, worked as director of human resources for Polk County before joining the board office. Given his age and more than 10 years of service, Evans qualified for the early retirement program approved in March but didn’t apply. The board’s executive assistant Ilene Tuttle and two policy and operations officers, Marcia Brunson and Ann McCarthy, were accepted and are retiring, Lehman said.

The turnover is significant in an office that only has about 20 employees. Donley, its executive director, was a finalist to be chancellor of the North Dakota University System earlier this year but didn’t get the job.

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