Sabbaticals: Space bicycles, a suicide in 1634 and Mexican accents. LaMarca bills top $1 million.

Civic Skinny


Your tax and tuition dollars at work:        

John Cunnally, an art professor at Iowa State, will spend next academic year completing a third book about antiquarianism during the Renaissance. “Tentatively titled Amici Huberti, the book will shed light on the people who collected, interpreted, and exchanged ancient Greek and Roman coins during the 16th century, and provide value to undergraduate and graduate students studying art history and theory.” Cunnally makes $77,000 a year, according to state records.

Jeremy Withers, an assistant professor of English at ISU, will spend the fall semester “to complete Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles, the first book to examine the history of representations of road transport machines in American science fiction from the late 19th to early 21st centuries.” Withers earns $67,000.

Reinier Hesselink, a history professor at the University of Northern Iowa, will spend the academic year working on his book about the suicide of Takenaka Uneme, a suicide that took place in 1634. The book will “describe the warrior class of Japan as it was reorganizing itself during the reigns of the first three Tokugawa shoguns after the end of a civil war that had lasted for more than a century (1467-1600).” Hesselink earned about $85,000 in fiscal 2018.

These sabbaticals — or “professional development assignments” — are designed to promote “effective use of resources meeting institutional missions.” The assignments also help the teachers compete “for external grants that benefit the professors, programs, the universities and the state by generating revenue for core university activities.” In the coming fiscal year, 135 faculty members will take sabbaticals.

Hesselink says his sabbatical matters because “for a state, like Iowa, that depends for much of its economy on Japan (most of its soybean crop and a large part of its corn harvest are exported to East Asia), it is of great importance to foster an awareness of Japanese culture and history.”

Alison Altstatt, an associate professor of music at UNI, will spend next academic year researching a project on “religious women’s music and ritual in the thirteenth-century Wilton Processional,” a medieval manuscript from a Benedictine convent. The project, Altstatt says, “benefits the people of Iowa by contributing to a more educated populace in the fields of History, Religion, and the Arts.” Altstatt is paid around $60,000.

Damani Phillips, an associate professor at the University of Iowa, will spend the spring semester traveling to four undisclosed cities outside the U.S. to study “iconic folk/dance/music styles.” He then will compose a jazz album, “a slate of compositions that embody an experiential comprehension of the music’s source culture.” Phillips earns $81,000.

David Stern, a philosophy professor at Iowa, will spend a semester “mapping the origins and structure of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922): a bilingual digital humanities edition of the book and its relationship to its sources.” Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is “one of a handful of key works of early analytic philosophy,” Stern notes. Stern earns $110,000.

Melissa Tully, who teaches journalism at Iowa, will spend a semester studying “the spread of misinformation on social media in Kenya and how to develop media literacy interventions to combat it.” Tully earns $79,500.

Christine Shea, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Iowa, will spend the spring semester working on a paper to be titled “Social Sensitivity to Different Accents in Mexican Children.” Shea is paid $72,000.

Robyn Schiff, a professor of English at Iowa, will spend half time of the academic year composing “Information Desk,” which will be “a book-length poem in the epic tradition that draws on her personal experience formerly working at the information desk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to contemplate art, commerce, and epistemology.” She adds: “Both a work of art history and a coming-of-age story, the poem is as concerned with the forces of power and history that drive the museum’s encyclopedic collecting as it is with the social and psychosexual workplace dynamics of the museum itself at the turn of the 21st century.” Schiff earns $94,000.

And Raymond Mentzer, a professor of religious studies at Iowa, will spend his spring semester working on an article to be called “Training and disciplining Protestant pastors in early modern France.” He views his sabbatical as “an unparalleled opportunity to scrutinize misbehavior among theology students and the manner in which they were disciplined.” Mentzer earns $145,500.

Perhaps the most useful sabbatical will be that of Ann Gansemer-Topf of the school of education at Iowa State. She will spend the spring semester addressing “current challenges facing colleges and universities by investigating effective strategies for translating higher education research into policy in areas such as student learning, degree attainment, diversity and inclusion, and accountability.” Gansemer-Topf earns about $80,000 a year.

THE DEBT-RIDDEN scammer and former sports talker Marty Tirrell didn’t show up for the hearing in which Mari Jo Corley, his former girlfriend, sought a protective order against him. The court then ruled that Tirrell “represents a credible threat to the physical safety” of Corley, and it issued a restraining order against him until Oct. 30, 2019.

Corley, 57, sought the order after reporting that the 58-year-old Tirrell “physically abused me with his fist, hitting me in the chest, breast and torso” on three occasions. The sheriff’s office was unable to serve the final order on Tirrell.

“There is no address for this defendant,” the sheriff’s office reported. “Spoke by phone and text 3 times…He said he would call and meet me twice and does not follow thru…avoiding service.”

Tirrell, who has millions of dollars in judgments against him for scamming friends, former advertisers, former employers and ticket brokers, rarely shows up to dispute the charges.

GEORGE LAMARCA may be through representing Terry Branstad and Kim Reynolds and others in the seven-year-old Chris Godfrey case, but he’s still sending bills. The Executive Council the other day approved bills totaling $18,067.32, bringing the total to date to $1,005,917.12.

A few months ago, LaMarca withdrew from the case, saying he was retiring, and the state then hired Frank Harty of the Nyemaster firm. The case was scheduled to go on trial in Polk County District Court in January, but the change in lawyers has caused yet another delay. Trial now is scheduled for June 3 of next year. So far, at least 50 depositions have been taken.

Godfrey has sued Branstad and Reynolds and three others for discrimination and defamation and retaliation after then-Governor Branstad tried to fire him as head of the Workers Compensation Board — that didn’t work, because Godfrey had a fixed term — and then cut his pay. Godfrey was a holdover from Democratic administrations and at the time was the only openly gay department head in the Branstad administration. The pay cut totaled about $150,000 over the 46 months remaining in the term.

If Godfrey wins, his lawyer — Roxanne Conlin — can submit her fees to the court, too. It’s a pretty good bet that they’ll end up at $2 million or more.