State Sen. Bill Haine said Wednesday he will file legislation to have all of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees removed from office after a board member tried to have himself appointed chairman.
Haine's announcement followed a meeting Wednesday morning of the SIU Board of Trustees, when board member Roger Herrin, a longtime ally of Gov. Pat Quinn, tried to get himself appointed chairman of the board and two other board members walked out rather than participate. The make-up of the board has been the subject of an ongoing dispute.
"I find it to be disturbing, and I find it to be an insult to the Senate, and to SIU itself, that he would attempt, with a rump board, to ensconce himself as chair of the board, rather than wait for the constitutional process to work through, and the negotiations between the metro-east legislators and the governor's office to conclude," said Haine, D-Alton.
He added, "I'm going to pursue a bill which eliminates all of the trustees, and gives the governor another shot at a clean slate, to appoint an entirely new board."
The trustees' meeting Wednesday in Carbondale ended ahead of schedule, when two members walked out. Trustee Marquita Wiley of Belleville and SIU Edwardsville student trustee David Hamilton objected when the other three board members wanted to proceed with appointing a chairman.
Hamilton and Wiley made a motion to postpone the election of officers until the governor appointed a full board, but the motion failed.
Hamilton then said he was leaving. "Without Edwardsville being represented, I'm not going to stay at the meeting," he said.
Wiley added, "I will also be exiting the meeting."
There currently are only five members on the board, so the departure of Wiley and Hamilton meant the meeting no longer had a quorum, which is legally required to conduct business.
SIU President Glenn Poshard said the special meeting had been called by the other three board members who wanted elect officers. Poshard characterized it as a power grab while the board is in limbo awaiting Quinn's new appointees.
"If they truly thought business needed to be attended to, they just needed to vote a chairman pro tem for this meeting," he said.
Afterward, Wiley told the Southern Illinoisan that she felt the board should delay the election of officers until three vacancies on the board are filled. Earlier this year, Quinn chose not to reappoint three metro-east members of the board, but the Senate refused to confirm the three replacements Quinn proposed.
Herrin had been the board chairman until last March, when the other board members voted him down. Quinn refused this year to reappoint the three metro-east board members, who included board chairman John Simmons, a Madison County attorney. All three had voted against Herrin.
Poshard and some board members say Quinn is trying to micromanage the board.
Herrin gave $10,000 to Taxpayers for Quinn in 2010, and another $5,000 to Quinn/Simon For Illinois. In addition to his direct contributions, Herrin paid for catering in 2009 and 2010 for Quinn's campaigns, valued on electoral committee reports at more than $6,000. Herrin has been a frequent political contributor, primarily to Democrats, with more than $90,000 donated to various candidates over the last two decades -- including donations to Poshard's run for governor in 1998.
Haine said the Senate and Democratic governor's office had been in talks to resolve the dispute.
"But this action today shows a unique arrogance on Roger Herrin's part, that he would not wait for the conclusion of talks between the governor and legislators, and he would not wait until a full board is appointed and confirmed by the Senate," Haine said. "In my mind, it's a situation that is irredeemable, and there has to be an entirely new board appointed and confirmed by the Senate."
Haine also said Herrin "has a lot to learn about how to get along with people." He said SIU needs a stable environment for leadership, "and this constant turmoil on the board is inexcusable."
Wiley told the Southern Illinoisan after the meeting that she hopes the legislature will be able to fill the three board vacancies soon.
"I hope that's it's being worked on. I have to trust that it's being worked on," Wiley said. "And I simply have to trust and I hope what happened today sends a message we need some appointees. We need to get on with the business of the university."
Poshard said he approves of Haine's previously-proposed legislation, which would require equal representation on the board for Edwardsville and Carbondale. "I think Edwardsville and Carbondale should have equal representation," he said. "And we have always had great relationships between both campuses, up until these last two years."
As for eliminating the entire board, Poshard pointed out that Hamilton would be stepping down shortly anyway upon his graduation.
"Marquita (Wiley) has been an excellent board member, so I would hate it for her sake," Poshard said. "But I understand Bill's frustration and why he's doing this ... Not only is the board divided now, but we're on the verge of dividing the system. That's unconscionable, and just because (Quinn) wants to push this one person in here as chairman."
Poshard said the metro-east legislators have been pleading to meet with Quinn since November and it has not happened yet. "Maybe Bill's got the right idea here," he said. "That's probably what it's going to take."
The abrupt end to Wednesday's meeting meant there was no discussion of a proposal to increase tuition and fees.
On the agenda for the meeting was a discussion of tuition and fees for next fall's freshmen, as the university is facing a serious decline in state revenue and falling enrollment at the Carbondale campus. The administration has recommended a 7 percent tuition increase for SIUE, though it is expected that the board of trustees will lower that amount before voting on it.
A final vote is expected at the May meeting.