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It sure looks like a cover-up

Tuesday, Jun 24, 2014

* Illinois Public Radio

A just-released investigation by Illinois’ Inspector General’s office found that the former head of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) abused public resources and wasted state funds, among other findings.

The IBHE announced in 2012 that Dr. George Reid was stepping down for “personal reasons” as its director after only 18 months, according to a news release. Reid supposedly wanted to spend more time with his family.

The Office of Executive Inspector General found that he had, in fact, been forced to resign or face getting fired after consistent reports that he was “combative,” the IBHE forced him to resign, or he’d be fired. But then it paid Reid $48,000 – three months’ salary — that investigators say wasn’t required by his contract.

* Sun-Times

The board had hired Reid for $193,000 a year, knowing he’d had his contract voided from Kentucky State University after he used university money there to pay for personal items, including a trailer hitch for his boat and a cat scratching post. He later reimbursed the university $1,600.

In Illinois, Reid had used his state-owned car for personal use, making IBHE pay more than $6,500 in extra car rental fees, according to the inspector general.

In his settlement agreement, the IBHE Board added a clause at the last minute on their lawyer’s advice requiring Reid to consult during the transition to find a new executive director “to make sure there are no press issues that he is being paid for services not performed.”

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

The full report can be seen by clicking here.

According to the report, Reid also submitted his initial job application after the due date. This was apparently board’s chairperson Carrie Hightman’s decision. Hightman told investigators that other board members pointed to problems in Reid’s past, particularly in Kentucky.

* Eventually, Hightman ordered a staff review of Reid’s tenure. The results weren’t pretty

* Drove talented staff away “[r]unning”

* Was “combative” and “rude” to IBHE staff

* Did not maintain positive relationships with leadership of other State agencies

* Did not demonstrate an understanding of important IBHE programs and initiatives

Oof.

* So, what did the IBHE do next? According to the report, the board voted to destroy the audio recording of a private. 2010 meeting when they discussed Reid’s hiring.

Unreal.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


52 Comments
  1. - walker - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    Where do we get these people? Both the coverers and coverees?

    ===”Drove talented staff away. Was ‘combative’ and ‘rude’ to IBHE staff. Did not maintain positive relationships with leadership of other State agencies.”===

    Sounds like he wanted to “shake up Springfield.”

    If any place needs a tossing, it’s IBHE.


  2. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:23 am:

    Look at page 12, am I reading that right? that someone refused to be re-interviewed and kept their (what I am guessing is a Rutan Exempt) job?

    You can just tell the inspector general you don’t want to talk to them anymore and that’s cool?


  3. - ??? - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:23 am:

    “he used university money there to pay for personal items, including a…cat scratching post.”

    I’d laugh if that wasn’t so pathetic.


  4. - walker - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:25 am:

    Hats off to the IG, again.


  5. - A guy... - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:31 am:

    === So, what did the IBHE do next? According to the report, the board voted to destroy the audio recording of a private. 2010 meeting when they discussed Reid’s hiring.

    Unreal.====

    Unreal is an adjective. Even an apt one. I think I might go a little (lot) further describing this one. Just when you think you’re beyond any more shocking stories…comes this. Utterly amazing.


  6. - unclesam - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    By voting to destroy the audio recording of a “public” board hearing…isn’t the full IBHE board in violation of FOIA laws? That alone, I would think, would be cause to appoint an entirely new board.


  7. - DuPage - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    At least one state agency took action when they realized their mistake in hiring a bad choice like Reid.
    Actually, Illinois State University also hired a bad choice for president, and paid him a large sum to go away.
    Why am I not surprised about these incidents?


  8. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    –According to the report, the board voted to destroy the audio recording of a private. 2010 meeting when they discussed Reid’s hiring.–

    Say what? There’s no “good” reason to do that, so now we need to know what the bad reason was.

    There are a few lawyers on the board, but apparently none with the chops to explain what a stupid act that was.

    I’m assuming by “private” meeting the reporter meant closed session. Because they can’t have “private” meetings. Unless they did.


  9. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    Too bad the board is not sharp enough to figure out stuff like isn’t good news when the State budget and higher education funding is front and center. Oh well, maybe next time.


  10. - fed up - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:52 am:

    10 members of the IBHE Board are appointed by the Gov. What a shock, Pinnochio Quinn we dont keep records on anti violence grants and we destroy any record we can in other controversies.


  11. - Im a lawyer - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 10:52 am:

    What they did is illegal.


  12. - Amuzing Myself - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    This is pathetic. And Democrats wonder why no one wants to give the government more tax money. Not only do these people keep their jobs, they GET their jobs in situations where they would be laughed out of the interview in the private sector - if they even made it to the interview step. Yes. More of this, please. Re-elect Pat Quinn!


  13. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    The thought process that came up with…

    “Yeah, lets erase the tape, that is a good idea” completely blows my mind.. This is going to make an interesting ad for someone.


  14. - Judgment Day (on the road) - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    Not to worry. Now that Quinn has read about it in the newspapers, I’m sure he’ll have a press conference ‘real soon now’ to address the IBHE issues.

    Crickets.


  15. - Ginhouse Tommy - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:09 am:

    I can’t figure this out. How is it that when there are warning bells going off, when the warning signs are as big as billboards that this clown was still hired. Couldn’t they have found someone else with less baggage and a better work rep. $193,000 a year and he’s too cheap to buy a cat scratch post and a trailer hitch. What a sleaze. Where do they find these people st anyway. I guess that some people have a sense of entitlement. When the hire the next person please do a little more a background check.


  16. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    –I can’t figure this out. How is it that when there are warning bells going off, when the warning signs are as big as billboards that this clown was still hired–

    I’m guessing the answers to your questions were on the tape that was destroyed.


  17. - hisgirlfriday - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    I’ve never even heard of Kentucky State University. Who clouted this doofus and where did he come from?


  18. - Robert the Bruce - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    A remarkably accurate headline:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-05-13/business/ct-biz-0513-executive-profile-carrie-hightman-20130513_1_law-firm-a-c-advisory-nisource


  19. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    hisgirlfriday

    Kentucky State University is a public institution that was founded in 1886. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,490, it has a total graduate enrollment of 350, its setting is city, and the campus size is 915 acres. Wikipedia

    So about the same size as my daughter’s high school…


  20. - Kenneth - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    As someone who has worked in higher ed, in Illinois, for 15 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the IBHE is completely irrelevant. It should be done away with. We’re better off on our own.


  21. - Robert the Bruce - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:20 am:

    I wonder how Alexi voted?

    http://www.ibhe.org/aboutBHE/boardmembers.htm


  22. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:24 am:

    Robert the Bruce

    Not sure Ex officio members got a vote…


  23. - Beenthereseenthat - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:25 am:

    This raises the important question, why do we need a BHE at all? OMB could probably do the basics with 2 or 3 people. The universities have lots of administrators who could fill the roles for their own schools. Closes BHE down and save a lot of money.


  24. - thechampaignlife - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:36 am:

    ===the board voted to destroy the audio recording of a private. 2010 meeting when they discussed Reid’s hiring===

    I sure hope they got permission to dispose of said State record from the State Records Commission. Failure to do so is a Class 4 felony per the State Records Act (5 ILCS 160/11).


  25. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    Beenthereseenthat

    =Closes BHE down and save a lot of money. =

    According to IOC’s FY 2014 Appropriation Book, operations funding for IBHE is $2.7 million. The other $14.9 million is specific grants, lump sums, etc. In terms or Higher Education, not exactly “a lot of money” … .


  26. - LincolnLounger - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:45 am:

    I wonder who the counsel for IBHE is? Did he/she not object to a clear violation?

    Breathtaking, even for this bunch.


  27. - Robert the Bruce - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    ==According to IOC’s FY 2014 Appropriation Book, operations funding for IBHE is $2.7 million==
    Small potatoes. But it’d be nice to at least consider shutting it down and redirect some of it to the Inspector General’s Office, who had their budget cut last year by $0.5 million to $7.3 million.


  28. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 11:58 am:

    Walker, the OEIG is NOT the state auditor.


  29. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 12:02 pm:

    Soccermom

    Unless I am missing something

    Hats off to the IG, again.

    would mean Inspector General at least to me not the state auditor…


  30. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 12:14 pm:

    Robert the Bruce

    = … redirect some of it to the Inspector General’s Office … .=

    How about redirecting it to the pension funds? Past due medical bills (both State Employee and Medicaid)?


  31. - DuPage - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 12:34 pm:

    @wordslinger10:39=…board voted to destroy the audio recording…there is no “good” reason to do this.
    While this is somewhat of a bad idea it might be legal. A few years ago, I noticed another public body was voting to destroy old tapes of closed meetings and questioned it. I was told the recordings are made for purposes of transcribing the meetings on to paper. The recordings are kept for a while in case a board member thinks a mistake was made on the written copy. The tapes are eventually destroyed because they contain confidential matters of personnel records, lawsuits, real estate, union negotiations, matters pertaining to hiring or firing an employee, etc.. Tapes, once out, could be doctored, quoted out of context, or cause a lawsuit if legally confidential information leaked out. The paper transcripts could have the confidential information blacked out on copies given out under FOIA.
    I don’t know if they have to destroy the recordings, or if they are just permitted to do so.
    Their timing did seem suspicious though, and it should be determined if this was as part of a normal routine or if this was done in response to the investigation. Also, the report said Reid’s predecessor was let go for some kind of misconduct. I wonder what that’s all about?


  32. - Clevelander - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    LincolnLounger,

    According to Appendix C of the report, the IBHE private counsel was Mary Patricia Burns of Burke, Burns & Pinella, Ltd. of Chicago.

    An amazing report, especially with all the references to board members who refused to be interviewed.


  33. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    Sorry, OneMan — the “hats off, again” comment made me think that Walker was confusing the Auditor General with the OEIG. Generally, I have been far from impressed with the work of the OEIG…


  34. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    Let’s note that the very first page of this thing says the OEIG’s office redacts identifying information. The report makes a point of not giving the name of the board’s private counsel - yet she is then very clearly identified, with her email and phone number included, in Attachment C!

    I also was surprised to see that they offered Ms. Hightman the opportunity to record her interview, since they have told other witnesses that such recordings are absolutely forbidden.


  35. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 2:02 pm:

    == found that the former head of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) abused public resources and wasted state funds, among other findings ==

    Off the top of my head, since 2012 we’ve dealt with Erwin McEwen at DCFS, the train wreck at DNR, the mess at Metra, and now the Board of Education.

    Someone, anyone, please make it stop.


  36. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    @soccermom - good catch and a very good point.


  37. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    Mostly a tempest in a teapot. Clearly a hiring mistake was made. OEIG believes agencies shouldn’t behave like private businesses when it comes to termination agreements, clearly the agency disagreed, and it is not an unheard of situation in Government. Would a lawsuit by Reid cost the state more than $32,000? Hard to imagine it wouldn’t. OneMan, did you read the report? It was Hightman who declined to be re-interviewed, and you wonder if she was Rutan-exempt? She was the unpaid Chair of the Board, not a state employee. Apparently several other Board members also declined to be interviewed.

    Would I have hired Reid in the first place, knowing what was known then? Nope. Would I have agreed to $32,000 to get him gone quietly? Yep. Was his departure for “personal reasons”, which seemed to be a big deal to the OEIG? I would consider his imminent firing absent his resignation to be a very personal reason. Would I have had the tape erased? Nope. Only person entitled to hear it was a judge who was solely looking at the question of whether the meeting was dealing with issues entitled to be be discussed in Executive session.

    On the whole, the kind of crap you get every now and then when you spend $60 billion dollars a year and employ 50,000 people and hundreds of unpaid and paid lay board and commission members. Not fun, but except in terms of opportunity loss for higher education not that big a deal, and the key players involved are already gone.


  38. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    OneMan, did you read the report? It was Hightman who declined to be re-interviewed, and you wonder if she was Rutan-exempt? She was the unpaid Chair of the Board, not a state employee. Apparently several other Board members also declined to be interviewed.

    Yeah, partially misunderstood her role, that is why my comment was

    Look at page 12, am I reading that right? that someone refused to be re-interviewed and kept their (what I am guessing is a Rutan Exempt) job?

    Notice the clever use of the question mark and the statement ‘am I reading this right’ because I wasn’t sure if the board chair was considered a state employee.

    As for ‘like the private sector’, well as a long time resident of the private sector and a one time severance agreement recipient, what was defined as the severance payment as part of the employee manual ironically, was what I got, not a penny more. I have not heard of companies going ‘above and beyond’ what was generally defined.

    Not a lawyer but it seems you open yourself up to more issues if you start doing that, not less…

    As for the board members declining to be interviewed, that makes zero sense to me. If you agree to be on a state board and it is something you agree to do, last I checked they don’t draft people for these things, they apply and are selected you have an obligation to be helpful IMHO. If involved in any organization that may have made a ‘bad hire’ and you were part of that decision, wouldn’t you owe at the least some sort of obligation to help prevent that sort of thing from happening again? Isn’t part of public service with this sort of thing taking the annoying along with the cool.

    The body learns nothing if people are not willing to address this sort of thing and the same mistakes will be made again.

    Also why deny the OEIG access to stuff? What purpose does that serve besides to avoid embarrassment? Does it help solve a problem, does it help make the IBHE better?


  39. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 2:56 pm:

    re: the private sector I was simply paraphrasing what the OEIG said in the report. Again, did you read it.


  40. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Well yes, I did…

    I guess I am missing something, it seemed to me when I read the report, it pointed out how the contract said one month (with cause) and it ended up being three months. It appeared from my reading that the reason it became three months was due to some concern about litigation, but in my reading I didn’t notice anything about litigation in being threatened.

    I also didn’t realize this

    OEIG believes agencies shouldn’t behave like private businesses when it comes to termination agreements, clearly the agency disagreed, and it is not an unheard of situation in Government.

    Was a paraphrase of what was in the report.

    What am I missing?


  41. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 3:27 pm:

    “Although this type of compromise may be commonplace in the private sector, we suggest it is not appropriate for publicly funded agencies.”


  42. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 3:31 pm:

    Thanks…


  43. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    as to “litigation being threatened”, Reid’s attorney to the Board’s attorney, “Dr Reid has…other remedies available to him pursuant to federal and state law”.


  44. - walker - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 4:29 pm:

    Soccermom: You were right. Thanks for the clarification and your view of the OEIG.


  45. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 4:52 pm:

    Erasing closed session tapes is explicitly permitted by the Open Meetings Act, after a specified period of time. In the view of the Act, the sole purpose of the tapes is to allow a judge to review the tapes to make sure that members only discussed topics permitted to be discussed in closed session. Once the time has elapsed, board regularly vote to erase tapes. Minutes of the closed session are also required and those cannot be destroyed (although they can be kept confidential so long as their content requires it).


  46. - walker - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 5:00 pm:

    Wonder how GTCR handled moving out senior managers who didn’t perform as expected, in the companies they acquired. I guess the details of those meetings weren’t recorded and provided to all stockholders.

    My first thought when reading this: “Well, that’s how it’s done in private industry.” Not everywhere, but certainly in closely-held companies.

    Maybe part of the problem with these mostly unpaid state boards is that too many members had successful careers in the private sector, and just assumed they knew what works best in government.

    We rightly have higher expectations of government, than of private companies and corporations. Or of ourselves and families, in some instances.


  47. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 5:06 pm:

    –On the whole, the kind of crap you get every now and then when you spend $60 billion dollars a year and employ 50,000 people and hundreds of unpaid and paid lay board and commission members. Not fun, but except in terms of opportunity loss for higher education not that big a deal, and the key players involved are already gone–

    Steve, that’s some welcome perspective. Very grounding.


  48. - DuPage - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 5:16 pm:

    @OneMan@2:45=As for the board declining to be interviewed…=

    Board members have knowledge of the confidential information, and they are NOT allowed to divulge it.


  49. - Milorad - Tuesday, Jun 24, 14 @ 5:18 pm:

    LOL!!! “Cat scratching post”….Check those records for IAMS receipts too. Incredible.


  50. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Jun 25, 14 @ 1:28 am:

    @Schnorf -

    Not the classic “Mistakes were made” for you!!

    The King of Non-Admissions.

    Until someone accepts responsibility, this one isn’t going away.


  51. - SkeptiCal - Wednesday, Jun 25, 14 @ 9:06 am:

    One of the comments asked how the IBHE could hire such a questionable candidate. Keep reading EEC reports. He was championed by Judy Irwin who got into trouble herself with the OEIG and EEC over doing campaign work on state time. The incest never stops at many state agencies.


  52. - QuietObserver - Thursday, Jun 26, 14 @ 9:46 am:

    And all of this is based only on what they DO know. What they don’t know is what they didn’t ask or look for.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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