© 2013 The Gazette
IOWA CITY - The University of Iowa has called for a review of whether the Athletics Department followed proper procedure in hiring Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz’s future son-in-law as an administrative assistant for football.
Tyler J. Barnes, 27, was hired in January 2012 as a temporary administrative assistant with a one-year appointment and an annual salary of $32,000, according to documents The Gazette obtained through an Open Records request.
About six months into the job, Barnes got engaged to Joanne Ferentz, a 25-year-old Iowa City elementary school teacher. The couple is expected to marry July 6, according to an online wedding registry.
No conflict-of-interest review was done for Barnes, even after his engagement. Ferentz said he didn’t think he needed to tell Athletics Director Gary Barta about the change in Barnes’s personal status.
“I didn’t see any reason to,” Ferentz told The Gazette.
The UI’s policy on nepotism says conflicts of interest in employment can arise not only from blood relationship, but through marriage, “intense personal friendships or significant business relationships.” When conflicts can’t be avoided, the UI requires supervisors to create plans for managing the conflict.
“If he’s reporting within football operations and the reporting line goes to the head coach and he’s becoming the son-in-law of the head coach, that becomes a conflict,” said Sue Buckley, UI vice president for human resources.
Barta said he didn’t know Barnes and Joanne Ferentz were engaged until The Gazette asked about it.
“There are a lot of things going on in people’s personal lives that I don’t know about,” Barta said. But he doesn’t think Barnes or Ferentz was trying to hide the relationship.
“I believe people didn’t think about it,” Barta said.
Barnes, who deferred questions to Kirk Ferentz, brings skills which strengthen the UI’s football program, Ferentz said.
“My No. 1 responsibility is to do my job as well as I can. Anytime we hire anybody, we are going to try to get the best possible person we can. Tyler’s expertise is in operations, recruiting and technology. His strengths complement what we have,” Ferentz said.
This isn’t the first time the UI Athletics Department has come under scrutiny for hiring family members. In February 2012, the UI hired Brian Ferentz as offensive line coach under his father.
Brian Ferentz, a former Hawkeye who had experience coaching for the New England Patriots, beat out more than 100 other applicants for the job, the Associated Press reported. In Brian’s case, the UI did complete a conflict-of-interest management plan, which included Kirk Ferentz not supervising his son.
Head UI Wrestling Coach Tom Brands also hired his twin brother, Terry Brands, as an associate head coach.
The Athletics Department did a conflict-of-interest review and management plan when they hired Monica Mims, daughter of long-time athletics official Fred Mims, to be associate director of compliance in August.
Monica Mims, 28, is a 2003 Iowa City High graduate who ran track at Iowa. She earned a UI law degree and interned at the NCAA before working in the compliance division of the University of Southern California athletics department.
The UI job was posted June 4 by Fred Mims, then associate athletics director for student services and compliance, according to documents obtained by The Gazette. Mims selected the seven-member search committee, which he was slated to lead, Curtis said.
When Monica Mims applied June 17, her father removed himself from the search. She was among 64 people who applied for the job and among three who had interviews, records show.
“The consensus is that Ms. Mims is the most qualified and the best fit,” the search committee wrote in a July 17 memo to the UI’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (EOD).
A recent Board of Regents audit found competitive job searches were done in 82 percent of recruitments in athletics, compared to the university average of about 94 percent. UI President Sally Mason told the regents she was not troubled by the discrepancy given that athletics often has high-profile and quick searches for coaching jobs.
Barnes groomed for promotion
Barnes, who earned two Bachelor’s degrees at UI, worked for the Athletics Department for several years while he was in graduate school.
The administrative assistant position, created about seven years ago, became open when LeVar Woods was hired as an assistant football coach in January 2012.
“It’s for a young guy willing to work a lot of hours for relatively low pay,” Ferentz said of the administrative job. “It’s a testing ground for us to see what kind of potential they have.”
Barnes’s supervisor is Scott Southmayd, quality control director, Ferentz said.
In November, Curtis asked EOD to extend Barnes’s temporary employment an additional year.
“Kirk would like the option to retain Tyler for this position (up to January 16, 2014) in order to give Tyler the additional professional experience needed to compete for a full-time administrative job in the intercollegiate athletics industry,” wrote Mary Curtis, associate athletics director for human resources and compliance.
Curtis said she did not know Barnes was engaged to Ferentz’s daughter. Human resources employees who become aware of a possible conflict of interest with a job candidate are obligated to tell Buckley, she said.
Buckley didn’t know about the relationship until The Gazette called her last week. She said she would request a conflict-of-interest review, likely by someone from Mason’s office.
Barnes’s January 2012 hire letter said he would not have benefits for the year-long appointment, but he received health and dental insurance starting in June. His pay went up 19 percent in his second year to $38,000.
Barta said he’s thrilled for Barnes and Joanne Ferentz, but he’s waiting to see what the UI review says about Barnes’s employment: “It’s undetermined what his status will be going forward.”