A chief executive's intemperate moves will come back to haunt him.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has sent a regrettable message to his appointees and potential appointees to state boards and commissions — don't cross me.
The messaging came via what amounts to the sudden dismissal of four appointees to the Teachers Retirement System Board and the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.
Two of those dumped were recent Pritzker appointees, and two were holdovers from the Rauner administration.
Their sin was disagreeing with the Pritzker administration on two key issues. Further, the votes that led to their dismissal were eminently reasonable.
Indeed, on one of the issues, Pritzker subsequently reversed his position and came down on the side of the appointees he fired.
In the case of the hospital board, Pritzker appointees Julie Hamos, a former Democratic legislator, and Michael Gelder voted April 30 to allow the new owners of the Westlake Hospital to close its Melrose Park facility. While the board's vote was unanimous, critics charged the new owners purchased the hospital to close it and that allowing that to happen would be a serious and unjustified setback for both the community and the hospital's employees.
It became a political issue and a potential problem for Pritzker when Democratic state Rep. Chris Welch lashed out at the administration.
"Gov. Pritzker let us down. We went to bat for him, and his appointees went to bat for billionaires from California," Welch said.
Obviously, hospital closings are a lot more complicated than that kind of simple-minded rhetoric. Nonetheless, Welch's words reflected political discord.
Opponents of the closing have since taken the issue to the courts, and the hospital remains open for now.
In the case of the TRS board, Pritzker removed Mark Shaw and Matthew Hower in April after the TRS board expressed its opposition to Pritzker's plan to skip $878 million in required payments to the state's pension systems for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"The Teachers' Retirement System is currently 40 percent funded. The system is at a growing risk of insolvency in the event of an economic downturn," the TRS board stated in a resolution opposing Pritzker's plan to make less than the legally required amount.
Ironically, Pritzker last week announced that he will make the required payments in light of news of an unexpected increase in tax revenue.
The governor may have had a combination of policy and political reasons for sacking Rauner's TRS board members before their terms expired. But it's obvious that he ousted his own appointees to the hospital board as punishment for their votes on the hospital closing issue.
The current governor, like all governors, is entitled to flexibility in how he staffs these oversight boards. But it's a mistake for him to try to micromanage their decisions, particularly when subsequent events show who — Pritzker's appointees or Pritzker — had the more sound policy position.
Republicans, whose voices don't count for much in Springfield given their super-minority status, last week complained about the governor's approach to dissent.
Pritzker, not surprisingly, ignored the suggestion that he lighten up and let board appointees, particularly his board appointees, make their own decisions on board issues based on their review of the facts.
Instead, his media spokeswoman said the governor will "continue to appoint highly qualified people who share his vision to serve on boards and commissions across the state."
Presumably, that means more people like the ones he just fired. That's not only a bad move, but it's a move that looks bad.