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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.

More Open Meetings Violations by Previous WIU Board

Rich Egger

Western Illinois University is being told to release recordings from more closed door meetings of its Board of Trustees.

The Illinois attorney general’s office said the university’s trustees violated the Open Meetings Act on multiple occasions by discussing matters behind closed doors that should have been talked about in public.

The latest violations cited by the state occurred in March, April, and May of 2018.  All were committed by trustees who are no longer on the board.

The university has acknowledged the violations, and its current board will be asked to approve the public release of the recordings of the portions of those meetings that violated the law. 

Credit Courtesy of Western Illinois University
The 2017-18 WIU Board of Trustees posed for this photo with WIU President Jack Thomas. Seated (left to right): William Gradle, Yvonne Savala, Cathy Early, Carolyn Ehlert Fuller. Standing: Lyneir Cole, Roger Clawson, WIU President Jack Thomas, Todd Lester, Steve Nelson.

The University Professionals of Illinois, which represents faculty at Western, raised concerns about the meetings and asked the attorney general’s office to review the recordings.

The union and Tri States Public Radio -- independent of one another -- also asked for a review of a board retreat held in July 2018. 

The state found violations during that meeting as well and ordered release of the audio. The current Board of Trustees will be asked to vote on releasing those recordings too.

The state earlier found the previous WIU board broke the law during three other closed door meetings held in 2018: on June 1 and 7, and again on June 28. The audio from those meetings has already been made public.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act allows public boards to meet in private to discuss certain matters, such as the performance of specific personnel and the purchase or sale of property. All other issues are to be discussed in public.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.