Eppley testifies for Governor’s Commission in U of I clout investigation

Hearings continued today at Chicago’s Thompson Center, where UI trustees Lawrence Eppley, Kenneth Schmidt, and David Dorris testified in the ongoing investigation led by governor Pat Quinn’s commission.

The commission began the hearing by questioning trustee Eppley about his relationship with members of the Blagojevich administration, including his path to being chosen as the former chairman of the Board of Trustees.

“I took initiative to meet as many new people in the Blagojevich administration as I could because we just didn’t know anyone,” Eppley said. “We knew that they were faced with budget deficit and thought that they might come asking for money or cuts to balance the budget.”

The commission also focused on questioning Eppley’s alleged involvement as a “go-between” between chancellor Richard Herman and the former governor Blagojevich in promoting the admission of certain students into the University’s law school in exchange for legal jobs.

“I don’t think I pushed anything, I was merely referring a candidate,” Eppley said. “ I don’t think I had any special powers of recommendation or persuasion.”

Eppley continued that the process, described as “unwritten protocol”, “wasn’t viewed as untort, and believe it or not, consisted of very brief encounters. We were told to talk to Richard, and he could track it.”

Eppley denied being involved in any sort of preferential treatment for students wanting to gain entrance into classes that were already closed. He also contended that he never made any monetary donations to the Blagojevich campaign although he admits to being supported as the elected chairman by the Blagojevich administration.

“I don’t agree that I violated the code of ethics” said Eppley. “Letters of recommendation are an open process. Through the inquiry process I don’t think I’ve ever tried to influence an admissions decision, I was motivated not to be the filter of the inquiry.”

When questioned by commission member Maribeth Vander Weele about the line between violating and not violating ethics, Eppley responded that he felt it was “Advocacy and not advocacy.”

“The difference is that I wasn’t advocating a particular decision. I said I knew the applicant’s family, but it wasn’t my business to say yay or nay.”