There has been concerns raised about my ability to be seated as a board member while also being a professor at Parkland College. An article in the News-Gazette explains the issue: “Parkland Board Candidate Would Have to Made a Choice.”

I did a little bit of research over the weekend. Here is what I discovered.

Michael Monaghan, the Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, claims that if elected to the Parkland Board of Trustees, I will have to choose between my paid faculty position and the unpaid board position because as he says, “You can’t be on the board that issues your paycheck.” Monaghan cited the Illinois Public Community College Act as evidence.

“Members of the board shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses incurred in connection with their service as members. Compensation, for purposes of this Section, means any salary or other benefits not expressly authorized by this Act to be provided or paid to, for or on behalf of members of the board.”

When pressed about his interpretation of “compensation,” Monaghan claims he knows the legislative intent because he was on the Senate Democratic staff when the bill was written and debated.

He explained, “That was not the intent of the law and I was here when it was written. The law was sponsored by Judy Baar Topinka . . . . [S]he introduced this bill to clarify that community college trustees cannot be paid, they can’t receive any compensation from the employer.”

What is most disturbing about Monaghan’s comments is his version of events does not match the historical records of the legislation.

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On May 16, 1990, then Senator Topinka explained the intent of the bill, “The bill comes from working with the Illinois Community College system, and it clarifies what is compensation to board members in terms of the ability to be able to get health care insurance. The amendment on it also puts together a credit card policy. Again, these are both agreed-to and worked-out amendments by the Illinois Community College Board. There is no opposition that I know of.” Directly after these comments, Senate Bill 1652 passed, 56 yes votes, 0 no votes, and 0 present votes.

On June 12, 1990, Senator Topinka explains again the intent of the legislation, “Committee Amendment No. 1 basically becomes the bill. And it now turns it into what had originally been Senate Bill 1652, which is now held in the House Rules Committee. It had come out of the Senate and – as an agreed bill list. And it discusses community college – it clarifies how insurance is used for board members – which is not at all. And the second part is how you use credit cards. And as I said, it was totally noncontroversial.” The amendment was adopted.

On two separate occasions, Topinka makes no mention of faculty salaries. In fact, the focus seems to be on board of trustees members receiving health insurance benefits.

I decided to look for some sort of controversy or scandal that prompted the legislation to add the language about compensation. I discovered an article in the Chicago Tribune from March 10, 1988 titled, “Payouts at 2 Colleges May Violate State Law” by Thomas M. Burton. The opening line of the article states, “Two suburban community colleges have paid more than $100,000 in health benefits for 10 elected board members since 1983, in apparent violation of a state law that says board members are to serve without compensation.”

This causes me to question Monaghan’s memory of events. There is no mention of the board/ faculty relationship as an employer/ employee relationship. It seems the addition of the language focused on issues related to past board members—not faculty board members.

Certainly, I understand how the rise of collective bargaining agreements over the years has created some degree of contention between bargaining units and the community college board of trustees, but overall the relationship between Parkland’s board and the faculty is one of mutual mission and purpose. We both serve in the best interests of students.

The Illinois Community College Act outlines the process trustees must take to avoid conflicts of interest: a board member with a conflict of interest must “publicly disclose the nature and extent of his interest prior to or during deliberations concerning the proposed award of the contract,” and must “abstain from voting on the award of the contract, though he shall be considered present for the purposes of establishing quorum.” (110 ILCS 805/3-48) (from Ch. 122, par. 103-48)

I will use this process to guide my decisions for all matters as a member of the board. However, it does concern me that the executive director of the Illinois Community College Trustee Association, who is one of the providers of the mandatory trustee training that recently became state law, may have misrepresented the legislative intent.

 

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