* On the same morning as Western Illinois University’s scheduled board of trustees’ meeting today, Gov. Pritzker withdrew two of his recent appointments.
Nick Padgett, the managing director of Chicago’s Frontaura Capital, was seen as a potentially lucrative contact with high-dollar donors was appointed to WIU’s board in late March. So was Jackie Thompson, who started at Western working a clerical job and worked her way up to Vice President for Administrative Service before she retired in 2011. Neither had yet been confirmed by the Senate.
I’ve asked the governor’s office for an explanation, but haven’t yet heard back.
* It’s likely the withdrawals had something to do with this story from late May…
Former Western Illinois University Trustee Lyneir Cole is accusing several of the newly-appointed board members of a “plot to fire” WIU President Jack Thomas.
Cole’s accusation is based on a series of email exchanges among trustees, retired faculty and others sent between April 25 and May 10, 2019.
The main series of emails took place primarily between Larry Balsamo and Jackie Thompson. Balsamo is a retired history professor and former department chair who is also listed as a member of the WIU Foundation Board on the WIU website, although his current status was not confirmed as of this writing. Thompson is one of the newly-appointed trustees and the former president of the WIU Foundation Board. She resigned from the foundation board when she became a trustee.
The content of the emails between Balsamo and Thompson revolves around discussions with other trustees and unnamed parties.
“Jackie, it was good to meet with you again, seemed like old times,” Balsamo wrote in an April 27 email. “I know that you are facing some really demanding challenges in your new position, but if things are going to get better here that will likely have to be instigated by you and your board colleagues. Two things, I will write to Eric this weekend to open a dialogue, and Jack just has to go.“
While not explicitly stated, “Eric” may refer to Erik Dolieslager, a trustee who was appointed to the WIU board in March this year. A later email by Balsamo to Thompson refers to a phone conversation Balsamo had with Trustee Nick Padgett in which Padgett told Balsamo that “Jack was really (dug) in as president…and some board members wanted to move on Jack, some did not really have a position and were on the fence, and some we need some work. He liked the idea of us approaching Aguilar.“
Also in the email between Balsamo and Thompson are comments referencing concerns about perceived racism. Balsamo wrote on May 7, “I am picking up some disturbing () about the Jack situation and so is at least one other member of the group. My fear is that the Jack predicament cannot easily be separated from race. (My) guess is that right three members of the board, the two African Americans and Aguilar will be at least skeptical about any immediate move on Jack and they may be supported by some in the governor’s office and certainly some in the legislature…. I know certainly that some of the opposition to Jack is racist, but even if he were purple he has been a near total failure here.“
He later wrote on May 9, “Race hangs over this whole situation, but I have the feeling that if Jack were white or even Asian he would have been gone some time ago.“
Cole made the accusation in a May 23, 2019 email which he sent to members of the current board of trustees and Thomas with the subject heading, “The plot of WIU board members.” Attached was a document with images of the emailed conversations and commentary by Cole. He forwarded the email later that day to Jesse Ruiz, Deputy Governor, and then again to media outlets shortly before 1 p.m. on May 26.
This administration micro-manages its appointees more than any I’ve ever seen.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Jordan Abudayyeh…
The administration determined it was in the best interest of the WIU community to go a different direction, and we wish both of them well. We expect to name additional appointees shortly.
*** UPDATE 2 *** I’m told by the governor’s office that both trustee appointees were likely not going to be confirmed by the Senate. They apparently didn’t handle the process well.
*** UPDATE 3 *** The board meeting was canceled…
The turmoil at Western Illinois University continues.
On Wednesday night, two members of the university’s eight-person Board of Trustees were quietly removed.
Then, on Thursday morning, the board canceled two days of regularly scheduled meetings in Moline.
The reason was low attendance: only three members showed up, preventing a quorum from being met. The quorum for a board meeting is five. […]
Several Macomb faculty and residents had driven roughly 80 miles to attend the scheduled meeting, at the WIU-Quad Cities campus, only to learn of its cancellation. One WIU-Macomb staff member had heard that one trustee was said to be sick and another had a family emergency.
* House Republicans troubled by Pritzker’s revocation of his own board appointments