CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s been threatened to shut down and has laid off hundreds of workers.
So why is publicly-funded Chicago State University paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to well connected lobbyists?
That’s just one of several questions CBS 2 investigator Brad Edwards had for Chicago State University leaders.
From 7,300 students in 2010 to 3,500 currently. Things are believed to be in dire shape at the university.
“I think we are in real trouble,” said Dr. Robery Bionaz, Chicago State University professor and faculty union head.
“This is a lot of money,” Bionaz said. “And what did it get us?”
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards showed him a list of expenditures. CBS 2 investigators found the school spent $1.9 million in less than three years on lawyers, lobbyists and PR pros.
Many of them many politically connected. $26,000 for legal work to a law firm led by former mayoral candidate Gery Chico. $46,500 for consulting and PR work to Steve Brown, spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. And $180,000 for lobbying to James De-Leo’s firm. He’s a former influential state senator.
“We have a skeleton crew,” said Chicago State University student, Leon Cole.
Cole is a student and math and physics tutor.
“Waste of money, all the way,” Cole said.
“We don’t have students, that’s the problem,” Bionaz said.
Chicago State University has roughly half the student population it had just a few years ago.
“We are working aggressively on enrollment,” said Cecil B. Lucy, Interim President.
Lucy said negative publicity took its toll. The state funded school, which serves a largely minority student body, recently faced the specter of closure due to a state budget impasse.
Lucy is a lawyer and an MBA.
“Ultimately it always does come down to dollars and cents,” Lucy said. “As you are aware, lobbyists are paid advocates.”
Lucy said DeLeo, Chico, Brown and others were not hired for political reasons.
“They are paid for performance and there is an expectation that they will deliver and to the extent, they do not deliver, then we will not renew contract,” Lucy said. “With lobbyists as a part of our advocacy team, it plays a very important role in making sure we receive the funding that we need, which is necessary to continue our operations.”
Lucy claimed the lobbyists helped Chicago State obtain more-than-expected state funding this year; however, the actual numbers show, CSU and other state-funded universities received less in 2016 than in 2015.
Steve Brown, Madigan’s contracted spokesperson said he, in part, was paid for his advice.