Vacancy on UI Board of Trustees still unfilled after a year

Vacancy on UI Board of Trustees still unfilled after a year

For a year now, there has been an empty seat on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

As the board prepares to elect new officers Thursday in Chicago, Gov. Bruce Rauner has yet to choose an appointee for the ninth statewide seat vacated last January.

"Our administration is still in the process of considering candidates for this vacancy," Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said Tuesday.

Last January, three members' terms expired: Democrats Patricia Brown-Holmes and Ricardo Estrada and Republican Karen Hasara. At the time, the governor said he hoped to fill those vacancies with "superstar" talent.

"If we could land one or two of the individuals we are talking with," he said 11 months ago, "it would be national or international headlines."

Bold did not respond to questions about whether those individuals were still in the mix.

In March, Rauner appointed a former business associate, Chicago private equity investor Donald Edwards. A Democrat and a former UI golfer, Edwards is CEO of Flexpoint Ford, a private equity firm he founded in 2005. A few years earlier, Edwards was a principal at Rauner's old firm, GTCR.

In July, the governor appointed Republican Stuart King of Champaign — a Christie Clinic physician with three degrees from the UI — to the second six-year opening.

For the final seat, the governor could appoint a Republican, Democrat or another independent.

Under state law, no more than five of the nine appointed trustees can be from the same political party. Each trustee must be a state resident.

Currently, the board has four Republicans (King, board Chairman Tim Koritz, Edward McMillan and Jill Smart), two Democrats (Edwards and James Montgomery) and two independents (Patrick Fitzgerald and Ramon Cepeda). Three student trustees are also elected each year, one from each campus, and one has an official vote.

Koritz and UI President Tim Killeen said they have not heard any news about a pending appointment.

"It would be nice to have that vacancy filled — always helpful to have another opinion and point of view," Koritz said in an email, adding it would also help the board achieve quorums for certain committee meetings.

Killeen said he checked with the governor's staff recently and isn't expecting any announcement before Thursday's meeting.

"I don't have tremendous insight into why it's taken as long as it has," he said.

The vacancy hasn't stalled UI business — the board has been able to approve budgets, hire coaches and top administrators and conduct other matters without the ninth trustee.

But "we're anxious to see the vacancy filled," Killeen said, to ensure quorums and a trustee presence at university events across the state, including Sunday's ribbon-cutting at the new UI Springfield student union.

"It's certainly more difficult with the smaller number than it would be if it were a full complement," Killeen said.

UI officials weren't sure if there has ever been another yearlong vacancy on the board.

Trustees will hold several committee meetings this afternoon at the UI Chicago Student Center West, then reconvene for their regular business meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday. After a executive session, the board will meet in open session about 9:30 a.m. Thursday to consider an in-state tuition freeze, a small student fee increase, approval of new Provost Andreas Cangellaris and several construction contracts, among other items.