SIU President Randy Dunn has coordinated with Edwardsville administration and Metro-East lawmakers to create legislation in order to dissolve the SIU system, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
He took those steps while claiming publicly to be neutral on the issue.
The SIU Board of Trustees voted on June 21 to release nearly 1,900 pages of correspondence that led two trustees to call for Dunn to be removed from the presidency and placed on administrative leave.
See more: Board fails to pass motion ousting Dunn, approve release of documents
The documents show Dunn assisted in the drafting of bills that would dissolve the SIU System and make Southern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville independent entities with separate boards.
“Staff will be working on the bill. We printed it off today. It is a 121 page technical mess of separating everything out,” John Charles, SIU’s executive director for governmental and public affairs, wrote in an April 10 email to Dunn. “Not a simple Carbondale you go your way, Edwardsville you go yours. The SIU System is very intertwined in state government.”
Charles said he wasn’t sure how quickly the bill could get done but said the “best bet” may be for Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) to acknowledge he’s going to be advancing the bill.
Dunn declined to comment to the Daily Egyptian on the released documents after consultation with Charles and Amy Sholar, SIU Board of Trustees Chair.
Dunn later writes to SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook that he should say neither Dunn nor Scholar is supportive of the system dissolution bill
“Rather, you can say the proposed dissolution takes it out of the BOT’s decision making hands and will now be dealt with fully as a function of the legislative process,” Dunn said.
On April 17, Dunn and Sholar released a statement stating that they would remain neutral on the legislation.
“Until directed otherwise by the governing body of SIU, the position that the SIU president’s office will take on these and any other proposals that could emerge is ‘neutral’ — restricted to providing data, background information and technical expertise as requested,” Dunn and Sholar said in their statement.
Nine days after the release of the neutrality statement, Dunn emailed retired SIUE Chancellor Stephen Hansen, regarding his offer to serve as a consultant to review the funding formula.
“I appreciate the offer and you would have done well with it, but this has moved to a new plane, unfortunately,” Dunn said in the email to Hansen. “We may have arrived at the time where the split just needs to take place because I don’t think it’s going back in the bottle after this.”
Adding the proposed $5.125 million shift to the April 12 board meeting agenda
Dunn had a confidential meeting with Vice President for Academic Affairs Brad Colwell and Vice President for Financial and Administrative affairs Duane Stucky on March 18.
Pembrook and SIUE budget director Bill Winter were also at the meeting via phone, according to meeting notes.
Dunn said at the confidential meeting that a board matter was to be prepared by SlUE to shift State funds from Carbondale to Edwardsville and suggested the “transfer shouldn’t be so large as to be easily rejected yet so little as to have no meaning.”
Dunn said Sholar was in favor of the first phase of the funding shift.
After a board agenda sign-off meeting on March 21, Dunn instructed Matt Baughman, SIU Chief of Staff, and Judy Marshall, SIU Executive Director of Administration and Finance, to not inform SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno on the proposed allocation, according to documents and to SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.
Duane Stucky meeting notes
“Upon returning to campus, in subsequent discussions with Matt, I learned that Dunn had called Matt Baughman and Judy Marshall aside after the 3/21/18 board sign off meeting and revealed that the matter was about reallocation,” according to Stucky’s meeting notes. “Matt and Judy felt compelled not to tell the Chancellor because the President had instructed confidentiality.”
Baughman declined to comment unless questions were directly emailed to him. Marshall did not respond for comment by publishing time.
Dunn also said this “will somehow put the ‘Carbondale trustees’ in a spot since voting against it will be used as ammunition by the group that is developing SlUE separation legislation.”
See more: Dunn responds to claims he holds Carbondale campus in “contempt”
In a presentation to the board Winter spoke on monetary contributions that SIUE had shifted to SIUC from 2000 to present day – citing an inter-campus loan of up to $35 million from the Edwardsville campus to the Carbondale campus in May 2017. He also planned a rebuttal if the numbers from 1957-2000 were brought up in the presentation.
Remaining neutral, Edwardsville campus-wide message and the 60/40 Split
Dunn said he was remaining neutral on the allocation shift during a May 18 press conference.
Despite his statement, Dunn knew that the matter would not pass, according to released documents.
“Will be a 4-4 I assume, which does not pass. But making a run at it,” Dunn said in an email to Pembrook on April 9. “And let all the fires be lit…big time.”
Dunn and Pembrook were in contact with Representatives Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), Monica Bristow (D-Godfrey) and LaToya Greenwood (D- East St. Louis) regarding the legislation and the release sent to the Edwardsville community.
“I will talk with Representative Hoffman’s office today to make sure about an announcement and timing,” Dunn said. “I am attaching a draft of what could go out tomorrow afternoon assuming the reallocation proposal doesn’t pass.”
After revisions made by Dunn and Edwardsville administration, a note of approval was given to Pembrook by the president.
“Good to go and would push it out tomorrow to all SlUE users just as soon as the meeting concludes,” Dunn said to Pembrook in an April 11 email — the day before the meeting. “Strap in buddy!”
See more: SIUE Chancellor pushes back on SIU Board of Trustees vote
In the emails, Dunn spoke on the 60/40 state appropriation split between the campuses and said it was to “shut the bitchers up from Carbondale.”
In a May 10 meeting, Dunn asked Stucky to prepare the data behind the 60/40 state funding allocation split and present it to the board.
“I responded that I couldn’t… the first time that I had ever heard about a 60-40 split was when he mentioned it,” Stucky said in meeting notes.
Higher Education Committee hearing
Dunn, SIU School of Medicine Dean Jerry Kruse and Pembrook also attended a higher education committee meeting on April 19 in Springfield regarding a series of bills introduced by Metro-East legislators.
“[Charles] and I think we probably better have the both of you present for that hearing, so start looking at your calendars now to see if you will be able to get them cleared,” Dunn said to Kruse and Pembrook in an April 17 email.
“Just so you know… since neutral on bill, we would testify only if asked by committee or Carlo shows up and signs in to speak,” Dunn said to Kruse and Pembrook on April 19.
In an email the same day, Dunn advised Pembrook on presenting information regarding university research.
Montemagno was not informed of the meeting, according to university spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.
“The chancellor relies on the system office to include him on legislative matters related to the university,” Goldsmith said. “He was not aware nor invited to that meeting and did not attend.”
Dunn’s attempt in removing Montemagno
Following the addition of the proposed $5.125 million shift in state funding from Carbondale to Edwardsville, Montemagno sent a memo to the Board of Trustees specifying what he believed would be the economic and community impact of the funding shift.
Dunn was CC’ed in the memo.
Montemagno said he believed the shift in funding would compromise the university’s financial recovery and stability, lead to as many as 110 layoffs in faculty and staff and take over $39 million from the local economy.
Dunn rebuked Montemagno’s memo and said “it is misleading at best and insubordinate at worst.”
“I do not fault my colleagues at SIU Edwardsville for making a case that they believe is in the interest of their institution,” Montemagno said in a response to the proposal on his blog on April 4. “However, I feel strongly that a sudden, unexplored plan to advance one institution while damaging another is not in the best interests of the SIU System, any institution that is a part of it, or the southern Illinois region.”
Dunn said he was disappointed in Montemagno for sending the memo without consulting him first, according to an April 3 email.
“Your memo intentionally misrepresents the situation… of your not being able to attend the Friday meeting but also not following up afterward, and then seeking to blame me for that,” Dunn said. “I have attempted these past eight months, within my own ethical considerations of your reorganization plan, to support your efforts to lead the SIUC campus, to the point of writing a joint statement of support with the Chair (cc’d here) for your leadership.”
Dunn told Montemagno it was now his decision to “ignore the chain of command as spelled out explicitly by board policy, or implicitly by any common understanding of organization structure, then so be it.”
“However, also understand that in doing so, you risk losing my support for your chancellorship… which at this juncture would be best served by a laser focus on direct outcomes driving enrollment and making the tough internal campus decisions you need to make to mitigate the fact that a $5 million allocation shift in a budget as large as Carbondale’s causes you to take this highly inappropriate action,” Dunn said.
Montemagno responded to Dunn’s email and said he was sorry that his memo had caused an issue between the two administrators.
“I felt strongly that I had a fiduciary responsibility to my campus to submit a detailed response to SIU Edwardsville’s request on the funding shift,” Montemagno said. “I sent it to you and to Misty at the same time so the two of you could coordinate the communication to the board as you best determined.”
Dunn forwarded his message to Montemagno to Charles who said Montemagno “was Rasputin” and that it would “make it harder to pick up the pieces no matter what happens.”
In an email to Sholar on April 4, Dunn said this would be enough to end [Montemagno’s] career as chancellor in some higher education systems.
“In some, if not most, of the 45 public HIED systems in the country — of which SIU is one of the smallest ones — this posting alone would be enough to end his career as a chancellor…let alone the memorandum to the BOT he sent without my review or approval,” Dunn said to Sholar.
“[Montemagno] is publicly dumping on the Trustees who will vote in support of the reallocation proposal, just as much if not more than he is me,” Dunn said to Sholar. “Continuation of this current status and behavior into next year is untenable from my view.”
He advised Sholar to share the information with “like-minded Trustees,” but only individually, in order to avoid violating the Open Meetings Act.
In a string of emails with Faith Miller, an associate professor of Dental Hygiene, Dunn said that Montemango’s contract is until 2021, but can be reassigned as long as they pay him his salary until the end of his contract.
“Please tell me we are not headed for another Cheng-o-Rama..,” Miller says to Dunn in the April 11th email.
“We’re already in it, hate to tell you,” Dunn said.
Obtaining the correspondence
Sambursky said he asked the SIU General Counsel to provide all correspondence between Dunn, the Office of the President and executive leadership of the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses regarding the proposal to shift $5.125 million from Carbondale to Edwardsville in April and legislation that was filed afterward aimed at dissolving the system.
“This request was intended to allow the board to gain a better understanding of the thinking of our executive leadership across the SIU System and the process they used during the reallocation discussion,” Sambursky said.
Sambursky said the documents suggest Dunn, Pembrook and his staff provided the board false information and withheld vital data when making a decision on a shift in state funding.
The documents show the factors Edwardsville leadership used for making the case on reallocation were created by Dunn, Sambursky said.
Sambursky said the board was eager to pursue an independent consultant to review the system funding model in order to ensure state resources are properly and fairly allocated among the campuses.
“I learned after the April agenda was released to the public that we would be doing the opposite of what we all agreed to in March by voting on this issue — with none of the research and data that we all agreed needed to be collected,” Sambursky said.
Sambursky said after the April meeting, documents showed not only was Carbondale leadership uninformed on the proposed $5.125 million shift but students, faculty and constituency heads were not informed either.
Calls for Action
In a 4-4 split vote, the SIU Board of Trustees failed to obtain the votes necessary in order to place SIU President Randy Dunn on administrative leave during a June 21 special board meeting.
At least one-half of the total membership of the Board is required for the initial selection of the President or the termination of the President’s services, according to board bylaws.
Following the analysis of the released documents published in the Southern Illinoisan, several legislators called for Dunn’s resignation.
“The president has lost my confidence and the confidence of at least four of the members of the Board of Trustees,” Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said in an interview with the Southern Illinoisan. “It is time for Randy Dunn to be done as the SIU President. It is the Board’s duty to act in the best interest of the University system as a whole.
SIU Student Trustee Brione Lockett said that it was best to keep a clear headspace when making decisions and opinions on the board matters.
“[We] shouldn’t think with our emotions,” Lockett said. “There is a lot going on and emotions can get the best of us at times.”
Lockett said he believes that transparency is something that the system needs more of and that individuals named in the released documents need to be questioned.
“No one here is a victim,” Lockett said. “If I have something to hide, what am I really gaining from this — we need to do better.”
Response from Dunn
Dunn has put out a public statement, through his attorney Shane Moskop and Jim Mendillo of Freeark, Harvey, & Mendillo, following the Southern Illinoisian’s analysis and reporting regarding the nearly 1,900 pages of correspondence released to the media.
The lawyers claimed that the statement is being released “as a result of The Southern’s erroneous interpretation and analysis of the FOIA’d communications regarding ongoing efforts to address the SIU System’s funding issues.”
“Its coverage on this issue provided only a partial narrative, while serving to even further distract those involved from finding a long-term funding allocation solution and providing the stability the SIU campuses deserve,” Moskop said. “Despite President Dunn’s desire not to engage in back and forth in the media it has become necessary to release the following Statement due to this imbalanced reporting.”
Dunn said the funding and allocation issues have been going on for multiple years but he will continue working to move forward and “ensure all of SIU is thriving and growing.”
“I support an increased allocation to make the allocation more fair and equitable as Edwardsville has grown and has increased its enrollment over the last decade plus,” Dunn said.
Dunn said, through the release, a “legitimate business decision must be made as to what is going to allow the SIU system as a whole to flourish and to ensure that both SIU educational institutions have the appropriate resources needed to operate into the future.”
“There will be a time to provide the full narrative on these matters and I look forward to addressing those in greater detail soon,” Dunn said. “In the meantime, I would invite anyone to read through the full set of released documents.”
Staff reporter Brian Munoz can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @BrianMMunoz.
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July 10, 2018 at 04:36PM