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National Editorial & Columnists

Rauner mum on sweetheart deals

Thousands spent on nepotism and golden parachutes at SIU and NIU

Scott Reeder
Scott Reeder

SPRINGFIELD – Imagine interviewing for a job and getting offered a starting salary of $340,000 and then demanding that your new employer create positions for your adult daughter and her husband.

Arrogant? You bet.

And you would have to question the wisdom of any employer who would give in to such a demand.

Well, folks, guess who is footing the bill for this fellow’s salary and those of his daughter and son-law?

Illinois taxpayers and the students paying tuition at Southern Illinois University.

And at the same meeting, last year, the one where Chancellor Carlo Montemagno was hired, SIU’s board voted to cut $26 million from the school’s budget and examine eliminating seven degree programs.

Two weeks after the board voted to make those cuts and hire her dad, Melissa Germain signed her new contract for $52,000 to promote theater at SIU.

I can’t really say how well she does her job, but in the past several days, plenty of drama has come to campus – after SIU’s student newspaper, The Daily Egyptian, uncovered her sweet new gig and that of her husband, who makes $45 an hour helping an interim vice chancellor.

The most qualified people are supposed to be hired for open university and state jobs. But job qualifications in Illinois often are relative – they depend on who your relatives are.

The Daily Egyptian reported that the university hired the Germains for positions that had been created for them and that were never advertised to the public.

The university’s internal ethics office has now referred the matter to the state inspector general.

I couldn’t help but wonder what our governor thought of this situation. You know, our governor, Bruce Rauner, the fellow who ran for office on a platform of fiscal responsibility and a pledge to “Shake up Springfield.”

So, I contacted his office and asked these two questions:

1) Does the governor believe this is an appropriate action by SIU?

2) If not, what action does he plan? 

And here is the response from gubernatorial spokeswoman Rachel Bold: “SIU has opened an ethics investigation. We believe that is appropriate and look forward to the outcome.”

Huh?

That’s all the man who was elected to shake up Springfield has to say?

Come on, Bruce. You appoint members to the SIU board. You are state’s chief executive. If you won’t condemn something this bad, are you functioning as a watchdog or a lap dog?

And these sorts of problems aren’t unique to SIU.

In December, Northern Illinois University’s board gave a $600,000 severance to former President Doug Baker, who quit amid a state investigation accusing him and other administrators of mismanagement with the hiring of consultants.

Raise your hand if you ever received $600,000 for quitting a job. Yeah, me neither.

Have you ever been offered a job and told a potential employer, “Nah, I’ll only work for you if you hire a couple of my relatives too?” I didn’t think so.

But this is how our state universities are operating. This is the way they are choosing to spend our money.

The NIU and SIU campuses are separated by 365 miles, but their administrators are joined by the same sense of entitlement.

Students may be saddled with debt as tuitions escalate. University staffs cringe as the budget axe falls.

But what are university leaders demanding? More – for themselves.

Where is the governor? Why isn’t he speaking out?

His rival for the GOP nomination, Jeanne Ives, calls it a lack of leadership on his part.

So far, he hasn’t proved her wrong.

Note to readers: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and produces the podcast Suspect Convictions. He can be reached at ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.

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