A downstate lawmaker said Thursday that he will push for the ouster of the entire Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees because he believes an ex-board chairman tried to get reappointed as leader.
State Sen. Bill Haine said Trustee Roger Herrin, an ally of Gov. Pat Quinn, tried to be elected board chairman Wednesday even though the panel is three members short and lawmakers and the governor are negotiating over outstanding appointments. The vote was thwarted when two of the five trustees walked out, saying there should be no vote until the empty seats are filled.
Quinn appointed Herrin as chairman two years ago. He was voted out by other board members last March after a tenure that included accusations by some fellow trustees and SIU President Glenn Poshard that Herrin was a bully and trying to micromanage the university system.
Quinn later did not reappoint three Metro East board members who had voted against Herrin. The Senate refused to confirm Quinn's proposed replacements.
Haine, an Alton Democrat, said he now will push a bill he filed three weeks ago — but suspended during negotiations with Quinn — to replace the whole board and start anew. His comments were first reported by the (Carbondale, Ill.) Southern Illinoisan.
"Why would he attempt to push this during this sensitive period? Maybe he had no confidence the new members would vote for him," Haine said, adding that the matter now is "irredeemable" and getting rid of the entire board is the only way to remove Herrin.
But Herrin said board bylaws call for the election of officers at the first meeting of the year. He said his name never was proposed as chairman and he hadn't determined whether he'd accept a nomination.
"They have attacked me personally," said Herrin, a former podiatrist who owns three downstate nursing homes. He says he's worried about slipping enrollment at the SIU system.
"It's been pretty clear that those involved didn't want any outsiders in their little nest and didn't want you to ask questions ... I simply won't back down," he said.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor, who is in Mexico this week to promote trade, does not have a preference for chairman. But she described Herrin as a capable leader, and called the three people Quinn wants to appoint as "stellar."
"The governor would like the board to move forward to make sure it's doing the daily business of the university," she said, adding that Quinn's office "continues working with the senators and those involved and would like to see SIU have a full board as soon as possible."
Haine said he wants assurances that the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses will be represented more equally on the board, and would like a wider pool of applicants in each geographic area.