Backstage feud becomes public
Gov. Pat Quinn is engaged in political war with the president of Southern Illinois University.
Thursday was the day when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn planned to restore a campaign donor to the post of chairman of the board of trustees at Southern Illinois University.
But it never got that far. In a stunning rebuke, the Illinois Senate Wednesday rejected Quinn's three nominees to the SIU board, leaving in place the three current members Quinn tried to fire.
The Senate's action brings the ongoing feud between Quinn and SIU President Glenn Poshard from the shadows into the bright light of day. That's not where Quinn wants to be because his efforts to manipulate board leadership do not reflect well upon his judgment, just as the Senate's rebuke does not reflect well on his effectiveness as the state's chief executive.
This is an ugly story, stemming from Quinn's decision to engineer an appointment as board chairman for downstate businessman Roger Herrin in 2011.
President Poshard subsequently charged that Herrin, joined by board member Donald Lowery, tried to micromanage the university. A year ago, board members rebelled, ousting Herrin and replacing him with East Alton lawyer John Simmons.
Quinn & Co. privately vowed revenge, and they thought they got it this week when Quinn tried to decapitate the board's leadership by ousting chairman Simmons, board vice chairman Ed Hightower, a well-known college basketball referee, and board member Mark Hinrichs.
All three board members are pro-Poshard while Herrin and Lowery have indicated they wish to fire him. Named as replacement for the three outgoing trustees were Belleville lawyer Sandra Cook, former Chicago-area college administrator Melvin Terrell and Springfield public relations man Lee Milner.
Assuming their confirmation, the new trustees were scheduled Thursday to re-elect Herrin as board chairman. But the Illinois Senate unanimously rejected their nominations.
"These appointments by his excellency the governor raise some serious questions," said Sen. William Haine of Alton.
Quinn lashed back at his critics, a spokeswoman saying the "students ... deserve better than they got today."
Actually, it's the public that deserves better than what Quinn offered. His efforts on Herrin's behalf (not dissimilar to his maneuvers involving Christopher Kennedy on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees) demonstrate misplaced priorities and an abuse of power.
It's left SIU's administrative and board leaders operating under an unnecessary distraction — all in the name of rewarding a campaign donor and throwing his weight around.