Former Higher Education Chief Paid More to Avoid Embarrassment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    The former chief of the Illinois Board of Higher Education was paid tens of thousands more than was required when he left his job, because officials were worried he would sue the board, and that his controversial departure would become “a press issue.” 

    A report on the matter from the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General, says Dr. George Reid received $16,000 severance after he was asked to resign, but negotiated additional payments of $32,000, the equivalent of two months salary, ostensibly to “make himself available” by telephone for transition consultations.
    In reality, investigators said they discovered an internal e-mail from the state board’s private attorney, which appeared to add the “transition” consultations as a virtual afterthought.  
    “I want to make sure there are no press issues that he is being paid for services not performed,” the email stated.  The very next day, Reid agreed to resign his position.  Including compensation for unused vacation time, he was paid $66,000 to leave state government.
    The inspector general’s office found that even though Reid was paid to be available for consultation on transition issues, “there is no evidence that reveals IBHE staff or the Board ever sought assistance from Dr. Reid.”
    The report states that interviews with State Board of Education officials revealed that they feared that if they had been unable to negotiate Reid’s resignation, he would have sued the state for race and age discrimination.  Reid is African-American, and was 67 years old at the time of his departure.  The Board’s chairman, Carrie Hightman, was quoted as saying that she felt it was “imminently prudent” to settle with Reid to avoid such a suit.
    Even before his arrival, Reid’s tenure was marred by controversy.  Prior to coming to Illinois, he served as president of Kentucky State University.
    In June of 2002, citing “performance deficiencies,” the KSU regents fired Reid, paying him a severance package of $170,000.  One Illinois board member interviewed in the report is quoted as saying that he questioned Reid’s hiring, after learning that he had been accused in Kentucky of, among other things, misusing state funds.  
    The board member said he told Hightman that he could not support Reid, but that she told him “Dr. Reid would be IBHE’s next Executive Director.”  
    Less than two years later, the report says Hightman asked for an evaluation of Reid’s performance, which indicated he had been “combative and rude” to staffers, drove talented staff away, and made some employees so uncomfortable they did not want to report to him “one day more than is necessary.”
    The report also found that even though he was not provided with a state car as part of his employment package, Reid monopolized use of IBHE’s only vehicle, forcing employees to rack up thousands of dollars in car rentals.
    Hightman told investigators Reid’s use of the vehicle was a “secondary concern”, relative to the “dysfunctional office” that he created during his tenure.
      
    Investigators said Reid refused to cooperate with their inquiry.