Rauner's office was interested in College of DuPage trustee pick

  • Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration was interested in the appointment of a new College of DuPage board chairman, emails suggest.

    Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration was interested in the appointment of a new College of DuPage board chairman, emails suggest. Associated Press File Photo

  • Lazaro Lopez

    Lazaro Lopez

 
 
Updated 3/25/2016 4:58 AM

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office showed interest in the process to appoint a new College of DuPage board member to break a deadlock following the surprise resignation of Kathy Hamilton late last year, a group of emails show.

The emails, obtained from the governor's office via a Daily Herald public records request, also suggest COD interim President Joseph Collins favored a specific person be named to the board.

 

Two days before Christmas last year, Rauner's education secretary, Beth Purvis, asked for a phone call, well before a final decision would be made in February.

"I was wondering if we could all get on a call next week to discuss who you are considering for the College of DuPage board seat," Purvis wrote. "I'd like to be able to brief the Governor."

The group of emails to and from Illinois Community College Board staff members don't appear to detail how exactly board Chairman Lazaro Lopez settled on Downers Grove Trustee David S. Olsen for the post.

They do show Lopez early on laying out a process to talk to several people involved in the process as well as his urging that it be figured out locally -- not to mention a flood of applicants asking for the job.

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The COD board was wracked by a year of controversy after awarding a $762,868 severance package to former college President Robert Breuder. That sparked public outrage and fueled the formation of a new political slate backed by Hamilton and elected last April. They formed a new majority and fired Breuder in October. But Hamilton's departure left the board deadlocked 3-3, with Hamilton's foes boycotting two months' worth of meetings earlier this year.

The governor's office emails also hint a few more times at Rauner's interest in the pick, which Lopez had to make because the 3-3 split left board members unable to choose a chairman within the allotted 60 days.

Rauner appointed Lopez, an assistant superintendent at Northwest Suburban High School District 214, to his state post about a year ago.

'Part of the process'

Two days before Purvis' email, Karen Hunter Anderson, the state college board executive director, sent a message to Lopez about the process.

"The statute is clear that it is your appointment," she wrote. "The Governor's office has also made it clear they want to be a part of that process."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A month later, Purvis asked for the name of the preferred candidate of Collins, appointed interim president after Breuder's firing. The candidate was identified as Stephen Douglas Spangehl, a former member of the Illinois Higher Learning Commission, and Purvis agrees she'd like to have his resume. The emails do not detail why Spangehl was not chosen.

And, media inquiries on the College of DuPage matter sometimes were coordinated with Rauner's office, the emails show.

Days before Lopez announced his pick, a state college board staff member sent a reporter's question to Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly. She replies: "You can say no comment if you'd like."

'No comment'

Illinois Community College Board Legislative and External Affairs Liaison Matthew Berry says Lopez talked to many people interested in the College of DuPage situation, and he said Rauner's office was an interested observer.

Asked just how interested the governor was, Kelly said: "We have no comment."

Zopp needs rest

Democrat Andrea Zopp said she'll be back in action soon after she gets some rest following last week's U.S. Senate primary loss.

"I'm certain that I'll stay engaged in some form or another in community issues," she said.

That includes possibilities in either the public or private sector, and she didn't completely rule out another run for office someday. Though she says "that's pretty far down the list at this minute."

"Mostly I've been focusing on just getting some sleep and getting used to a world that doesn't involve campaigning every day," she said.

Zopp finished second in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary to U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates.

Independent maps?

The leader of the group trying to have the state's political boundaries drawn differently says the group has about a month to go to collect signatures to get on the ballot.

Dave Mellet, leader of the Independent Maps group, says the group has about 510,000 petition signatures right now, short of their goal of 600,000.

The group wants to put a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution that would create, Mellet argues, more competitive races for legislative seats in Springfield because no one political party will control drawing the districts.

A key difference from a similar effort two years ago that fell short, Mellet says, is that staff members have already worked to strike invalid or duplicated signatures, perhaps ensuring they're more likely this time to meet the about 290,000-signature minimum needed for their amendment to get on the ballot.

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