Senate approves Board of Trustee members despite controversy

By Amanda Graf

Three Board of Trustee members were approved by the Senate executive appointments committee this morning following a week of controversy over whether the trustees should be present when the decision was made.

“It’s unusual to have boards or commission candidates who serve without pay go before the Senate executive appointments committee,” said Tom Hardy, University spokesman. “They typically do not appear before that committee.”

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mantoon, filed a request on Monday that University Chairman Lawrence Eppley and trustees Robert Vickrey and James Montgomery be present at the confirmation hearing. State Sen. Rickey Hendon, D- Chicago, denied Righter’s request.

Righter said there were several issues he would have like to discuss with the trustees before voting on their nominations. University of Illinois is the flagship university of the state and has had issues with tuition and fees, Righter said. He also wanted to discuss the decision the Board made in February to remove Chief Illiniwek performances from sporting events.

“It was kind of a cut and run, let’s make an announcement and run for cover situation,” Righer said. “Even if the board didn’t violate the letter of the open meetings act, they certainly violated the spirit of it. These are appropriate question we had the right to ask about.”

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Righter said that denying his request “enhances the perception that there’s something to hide here.”

The trustees at the center of this decision were apparently unaware that Righter had made such a request and that it had been denied.

Chairman Lawrence Eppley said he was not present at his initial confirmation hearing and did not know that his presence had been requested at the current hearing.

When asked why he believes Sen. Righter wanted him at the hearing, Eppley replied, “I have no idea.”

Sen. Hendon was not immediately available for comment, but he told The News-Gazette he rejected the request in the interest of moving Senate business forward.

“The Chief (Illiniwek) issue has been settled,” Hendon said to The News-Gazette. “I think it would be wrong of me to waste the time of the committee and the Senate over an issue that has been settled.”