Iowa lawmaker under fire for referring to Sizzler certificate as business degree

An Iowa state lawmaker said Thursday that he didn't mean to mislead anyone by claiming he had a business degree from a company that actually had awarded him a certificate for participating in a training program when he worked at Sizzler.

Sen. Mark Chelgren's biography on a website run by Iowa Senate Republicans had listed that he had a degree in business management from Forbco Management school. The information was removed Wednesday after NBC News reported that Forbco Management is a California company that operated a Sizzler franchise.

Chelgren told The Associated Press that his clerk first provided the credentials to Senate Republicans, which then circled back with him.

"It was given to me to approve and I thought it was adequate," he said.

Ed Failor, a spokesman for Iowa Senate Republicans, confirmed Thursday that Chelgren's bio was updated after the NBC report and that Chelgren doesn't have a college degree. Failor declined to comment further.

Chelgren, who is from Ottumwa in southeastern Iowa, said he did earn an associate's degree from Riverside Community College. Calls on Thursday seeking to verify that claim with Riverside City College — the school apparently changed its name — went to an automated system and The Associated Press wasn't able to get a live person on the line. The school also didn't immediately reply to an email.

On Wednesday, Failor had told NBC, "This was a management course he took when he worked for Sizzler, kind of like Hamburger University at McDonald's."

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.

"I know they've changed that, because apparently a degree and a certificate are different. And I'm OK with their change, but there was never any intent at all to mislead anyone," he said.

Chelgren, who was first elected to the state Senate in 2010, gained attention recently for sponsoring a bill that would freeze faculty hiring at the state's public universities until the number of professors registered as Republicans was within 10 percent of those registered as Democrats.

Failor said Chelgren wouldn't face discipline over the biography, noting that no Senate rules were broken.

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