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Bill to close university golden parachute loophole on governor’s desk

By GREG BISHOP, The Center Square

A measure on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk could protect taxpayers from having to cover the cost of golden parachutes and special deals for public university administrators.

After several high-profile cases of public university administrators in Illinois getting large severance packages, a couple of years ago Illinois lawmakers made changes.

“We put a restriction on how much these severance packages could be,” said state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego. “What we found is that there was a loophole in the original bill.”

While the cap on severance was at one year’s salary, that law didn’t include whether an administrator was transitioned to another job within the institution as part of that agreement.

“The severance packages were being awarded when the individual would get these large payouts when they didn’t leave the institute they were working in and they just changed jobs,” Kifowit said.

One high-profile instance is former Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas. In 2019, Thomas was given two years of salary worth $570,000 to take a sabbatical and then come back to teach at the university for $200,000 a year, making more than any other professor.

“That’s a good example that this bill would address as well,” Kifowit said.

She said Senate Bill 2240, which passed unanimously out of both chambers, is now on the governor’s desk.

“The bill provides that if a provision in the transition into the different position is included in a university president’s or chancellor’s contract then the contract must include which department and the annual compensation cannot exceed that of the highest employee of the department,” Kifowit said.

The measure also requires a portal be maintained by the Illinois Board of Higher Education with training, statutory and other resources for college board trustees to access.



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