SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate has rejected three trustees appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn to the Southern Illinois University board of trustees.
Gov. Quinn on Monday announced he would replace three metro-east board members now that their terms were up for renewal. Board chairman John Simmons, of East Alton, Vice Chairman Ed Hightower, of Edwardsville, and Secretary Mark Hinrichs, of O'Fallon, were out, to be replaced by Sandra Cook, of Collinsville, Melvin Terrell, of Chicago and Lee Milner, of Springfield.
With that decision, only two board members would be from the metro-east, where two of the university's four campuses are located.
But in a rare move, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 0-23 with 32 "present" votes on Quinn's request.
The failed ratification vote continues a year-old power struggle at SIU and a fresh fight over the way the Senate provides "advice and consent" on gubernatorial appointments, as the Illinois Constitution requires.
State Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, told colleagues he rejected the idea of considering appointments on the floor without the traditional vetting by the Executive Appointments Committee. He also complained that Quinn did not consult the Senate on his nominees.
Haine added that he does not know the nominees' qualifications, but he praised the outgoing members.
"To have three board members who've served diligently, without blemish (and) with distinctions summarily dismissed, and then have three people appointed today without any consultation with the Senate, is just I don't believe the way it go," Hain said.
The rift dates to last March, when the SIU board -- led by Simmons, Hightower and Hinrichs -- refused to give Roger Herrin, appointed by Quinn in 2010, another term as chairman, contending he was too involved in day-to-day operations. Simmons replaced Herrin.
Afterward, SIU President Glenn Poshard said that Quinn staffers had called board members ahead of Herrin's ouster to ask if they planned to vote on keeping Herrin as chairman. If members said no, Poshard said Quinn staffers asked them to skip the election or risk being kicked off the board.
At the time, Herrin and trustee Donald Lowery were criticizing Poshard's leadership. Quinn has denied retaliatory intentions.
Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Quinn was disappointed by the Senate's action.
"The students of Southern Illinois University's three campuses deserve better than they got today," Anderson said in a statement. "Instead of playing politics, the members of the Senate should give Sandra Cook, Dr. Melvin Terrell and Lee Milner a fair hearing."
Hightower and Simmons could not immediately be reached for comment. Before the vote, Hinrichs had said it was "a true honor and privilege" to serve two years on the board, and said the experience of senior trustees Hightower and Simmons was "irreplaceable."
The SIU board is scheduled to meet Thursday morning at the Edwardsville campus.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2501. The Associated Press contributed to this story.