The information that was posted on the Iowa Senate Republican’s website used to suggest that Mark Chelgren, a state lawmaker, held a business degree.
But that wasn’t exactly the case, according to NBC News and other media outlets, which this week reported that Chelgren instead held a certificate for a training program for the chain restaurant Sizzler.
Still, Chelgren — a Republican who represents the Iowa Senate’s 41st District in the southeastern part of the state — told the Associated Press that he didn’t mean to mislead people.
“I know they’ve changed that, because apparently a degree and a certificate are different,” Chelgren told AP. “And I’m okay with their change, but there was never any intent at all to mislead anyone.”
NBC News reported this week that Chelgren’s biography on the website had changed, removing the information about the degree. According to an image posted by the network, information on the site had previously indicated that Chelgren had a degree in business management from Forbco Management school.
The problem, NBC reported, was that Forbco Management isn’t included as an accredited institution on the National Center for Education Statistics’ list. The network reviewed records and reported that the only Forbco Management in the state of California “is a company that used to operate a Sizzler steakhouse in Torrance, California.”
“This was a management course he took when he worked for Sizzler, kind of like Hamburger University at McDonald’s,” Ed Failor Jr., chief of staff for the Iowa Senate majority leader, told NBC News. “He got a certificate.”
The biographical information that is posted to the Iowa State Republicans site comes from submitted biographies, Failor told The Washington Post on Thursday.
“Senators get elected, there’s not an interview process or anything, they get elected,” he said. “And they submit their bios.”
Chelgren did not immediately respond to an email from The Post on Thursday. He told the Associated Press that a clerk initially gave information to Senate Republicans, but said he also reviewed it.
“It was given to me to approve and I thought it was adequate,” he told the wire service.
Chelgren said Thursday he had not thought there was much difference between a degree and a certificate. He said he worked at a Southern California Sizzler in the 1980s, when he was about 19.
“I didn’t see a difference when I did the review, didn’t worry about,” he said.
Chelgren said he doesn’t mind that the information about him now has been changed.
Chelgren told the Des Moines Register that the school ran “ran Sizzler restaurants and a few other different restaurants.” He said he spent a few months in the training so that he could be promoted.
“I had to take their school and their classes and they gave me their degree — as they termed it — and I have used that terminology,” he told the newspaper. “I was told, ‘Well, it is probably better terminology to say ‘certificate,’ ” so regardless of however they want to do it, that is the semantics (NBC News is) arguing.”
Chelgren made headlines this month as the author of Senate File 288, proposed legislation that seeks to “require partisan balance” of faculty members who work at higher-ed institutions that are governed by the Iowa Board of Regents, according to its text.
Those schools include the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.
Under the proposed bill, a job candidate who is seeking a position as a professor or instructor would not be hired if his or her political party affiliation on their hire date would “cause the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by ten percent the percentage of the faculty belonging to the other political party,” the text states.
The state commissioner of elections would turn over voter registration records to the Board of Regents-governed universities each year, the bill states.
“The Board of Regents is opposed to the bill,” spokesman Josh Lehman said in an email to The Post. “We expect our universities to hire the most qualified faculty to teach our students, and we believe in diversity of thought.”