We now know that former student trustee Brandi Husch was telling the truth, three years ago, when she said that the John A. Logan College Board of Trustees had both violated the Open Meetings Act and attacked her while in executive session on March 2, 2016.
Those offensive actions should have consequences. In democracies all over the world, politicians take responsibility for their wrongful actions by resigning. At a minimum, JALC Board chair Bill Kilquist should resign. A case can be made that board members Jake Rendleman and Ray Hancock and President Ron House should also resign.
The Illinois Attorney General's office has issued its finding that almost none of discussion in the executive session was legitimately conducted behind closed doors. That this occurred while an auditorium full of people waited to learn the fate of their jobs makes this uglier. The redacted recording reveals that most of the discussion centered around the members fortifying themselves to face the public meeting by absolving themselves, and each other, of any error leading to the coming layoffs and settling on the public spin and battle plan for facing the faculty and staff waiting outside.
That battle plan was perceived to be workable only if the board was unanimous. It wasn't. Student trustee Husch was a holdout. She announced that she could not, in good conscience, go out and vote to ax instructors. Kilquist was ready to crush such dissent. He pulled out a dossier containing records of past court cases involving Husch.
He didn't suddenly snap under the strain of the situation. He planned the confrontation with the student trustee beforehand. He obtained her previous name. He researched her records. He printed them out. He transported them to the meeting. Then he made his dramatic assault with the file. Most of this has been reported in the news over the last three years. The proof is on the recording. He was relentless. He was childish and peevish and he was bullying.
You have free articles remaining.
And he was not alone. Husch is berated by other board members, being told that she is too young to understand and that she's been “allowed” to talk more than any other student trustee.
While the clearly shocked, audibly crying, young woman is trying to confront what is happening to her and respond to Kilquist, other board members want her to just dry her eyes, pretend the incident hasn't just happened and acquiesce to their “reasoning” that she should see things, and vote, their way. “Brandi, look at me!” No one came to her defense. No one objected that the discussion had absolutely nothing to do with why they had went into closed session.
In fact, minutes go by before a female trustee can be heard even mildly suggesting that she's not comfortable with the direction of the discussion. Not, “put away the folder”, not “how dare you treat a fellow trustee” this way, not “Mr. Chairman, make Mr. Kilquist stop. Regain control of the meeting”. No. Each of them was either silent or continued to lobby for their position.
And it was all unnecessary. They had made their decision. They were going to lay off the 55 people. All they had to do was each make their case. The debate would have been over before it barely started. Husch was the only one arguing against the layoffs. Hear her out. Vote. Period.
They all brought this on themselves.
Former board members Cheryl Graf, Jackie Hancock, former Board chair Don Brewer, the late Bill Alstat. Each failed to stop Kilquist. Each participated in a meeting that clearly wasn't supposed to be conducted in secret. They are off the board and beyond accountability. Others are not beyond accountability.
I encourage readers to submit a simple Freedom Of Information Act request to John A. Logan College, obtain the CD, and listen to the recording of the closed session of March 2, 2016. If you believe the behavior you hear indicates cowardice, intimidation and illegal secrecy, demand the resignations of Board members Bill Kilquist, Jake Rendleman and Ray Hancock, as well as that of President Ron House, who was in the room, but failed to protect a student.
Jim Carl served in various positions as a civil servant and as an administrator, in the registrar’s and admissions offices, at SIU Carbondale over 30 years. He is retired and lives in rural Makanda.