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The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

Another Member Leaves WIU Board of Trustees

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees (BoT) has lost another member, and it appears as though his resignation is nearly two years late.

Lyneir Cole of Chicago announced his resignation this past week citing the fact that he works for a state agency.  Illinois law does not allow state workers to serve on university boards.

Credit Screen capture from LinkedIn

Cole’s LinkedIn profile indicates he began a state job early in 2017.  When TSPR inquired with Western’s administration about why Cole remained on the board after being hired by the state, a WIU spokesperson suggested we ask the governor's office because that office appoints and removes trustees.

TSPR responded by pointing out Cole was not removed from office – he resigned.  After several hours, we received this response:

“University General Counsel Liz Duvall received a complaint regarding a possible conflict of interest in regard to Mr. Cole's appointment due to his employment with a state agency. Ms. Duvall contacted the Office of the Governor and was directed by the Governor's legal counsel to speak with Mr. Cole regarding his resignation from the Board. Mr. Cole announced his resignation Friday, Dec. 7.”

Credit Rich Egger
Three of the eight seats on the WIU Board of Trustees are now vacant, as shown in this display in the University Union's Brattain Lounge

Cole is the third BoT member to leave in the past six months.  Steven Nelson of the Quad Cities left the board in mid-June.  The university said the governor withdrew Nelson’s temporary appointment.  And Cathy Early of Macomb resigned from the board last month after the Illinois Attorney General’s office ruled the board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act while Early was chairperson.  

The terms of three of the five remaining board members expire in January, 2019. They are Chairperson Carolyn Ehlert Fuller, Vice Chairperson Yvonne Savala, and Roger Clawson.  All three are from the Quad Cities.

Western’s other two trustees are Todd Lester of Macomb, whose term is scheduled to continue until January, 2023, and student Justin Brown.  Student members serve one year terms.

The governor’s appointments to university Boards of Trustees must be confirmed by the Illinois Senate.  No more than four trustees can be from the same political party.

The WIU board’s next meeting is scheduled for Friday, December 14, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. in the University Union Capitol Rooms in Macomb. The BoT originally planned to hold a closed session meeting but that has been cancelled so only a public meeting will be held.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.