Illinois state Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) | norinehammond.org
Illinois state Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) thinks there might be more than meets the eye to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s hasty decision to remove two newly appointed members of the Western Illinois University (WIU) Board of Trustees.
“As unconfirmed members, they can be removed from this board at the first sign that they might not fall in line with those with the power to remove them,” Hammond said in a media release. “This reality compromises their ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of the body they serve. This situation and the circumstances that have led to this point are disappointing and, quite frankly, disgusting.”
New appointees who had not yet been officially confirmed, Jackie Thompson and Nick Padgett both saw their brief tenures flame out when their nominations were essentially pulled just hours before final confirmation was scheduled this month.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker
“These two highly qualified individuals were deserving of their position and sincere in their desire to see Western succeed,” said Hammond, who described Padgett as “an alum of Western who has achieved great success in the area of finance,” and Thompson as “retired from a long, dedicated career serving the WIU community with great success.”
According to the McDonough Voice, word of the removals came just before board members were scheduled to embark on a retreat on the university’s Quad City campus where such issues as the fate of a number of school programs and the approval of a presidential contract were among the agenda items to be discussed.
“I think the Pritzker administration has been subjected to a campaign of misinformation from a group of individuals who seek to undermine the future of WIU for their own personal benefit,” Hammond stated. “These individuals must be identified and dealt with appropriately. WIU’s Board of Trustees, like all independent boards across the state, must retain the autonomy that is critical to guiding the university to a prosperous future.”
In recent times, WIU has had to suffer through a major drop in enrollment that led to persistent calls for the removal of former President Jack Thomas. In the fall of 2018, the office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan found board members had violated the Open Meetings Act by engaging in discussions about staff, faculty and programs in closed session.
As the mystery of the abrupt removals has deepened, Pritzker’s office released a statement declaring: “The administration determined it was in the best interest of the WIU community to go a different direction. We expect to name additional appointees shortly."