SPRINGFIELD — In a rare move, the Illinois Senate on Wednesday slapped down Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest appointments to the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.
Just two days after Quinn nominated new members to the board, senators used their appointment powers to send a strong message to the governor that they don’t approve of his tinkering with the makeup of the board.
The governor’s proposed appointments of Sandra Cook of Collinsville, Dr. Melvin Terrell of Chicago and Lee Milner of Springfield received zero “yes” votes, 23 “no” votes and 32 “present” votes.
The smackdown marked just the latest tussle involving Quinn’s attempt to install current Trustee Roger Herrin of Harrisburg as chairman.
The three trustees targeted for replacement by Quinn — John Simmons of East Alton, Mark Hinrichs of O’Fallon and Ed Hightower of Edwardsville — had been part of a coup to oust Herrin as chairman in 2011 after board members and university President Glenn Poshard complained of Herrin’s management style.
The outgoing three trustees represent the top slate of officers on the board — Simmons as chairman, Hightower as vice chairman and Hinrichs as the board secretary.
State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, one of just three senators to speak on the issue, said he wasn’t opposed to Quinn’s nominees but was opposed to Quinn’s attempt to micromanage the board.
“It concerns me that there is a push to make this individual the chairman of the board,” Clayborne said of Herrin.
In a statement, Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor was disappointed with the Senate’s action.
“The students of Southern Illinois University’s three campuses deserve better than they got today,” Anderson noted. “Instead of playing politics, the members of the Senate should give Sandra Cook, Dr. Melvin Terrell and Lee Milner a fair hearing.”
It remains unclear what the next step will be.
The terms of Simmons, Hinrichs and Hightower have expired, but they can continue to serve for the time being.
Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said senators believed the current board is effective in advancing the goals of the university.