Univ. of Illinois trustee says he'll finish term

August 28, 2009 3:25:18 PM PDT
University of Illinois Trustee James Montgomery said Friday he would finish his term. He was one of two trustees who refused to resign at the governor's request because of the university's clout scandal.The Chicago attorney said his work on the board is far from over.

Montgomery, who called the governor's bluff and won, summoned reporters to his office Friday to publicize a wrongful death lawsuit against the Riverdale Police Department. Toward the end of the news conference, ABC7 Chicago asked Montgomery why he fought so hard to remain on the trustee board.

"For me, it was simply a question of absolutely protecting my integrity and my reputation," Montgomery said.

Montgomery made it known Friday that he planned to serve the remaining three and one-half years of his term on the University of Illinois' board of trustees. The 77-year-old attorney also says he expects to be an experienced voice on the new board as it addresses the admissions scandal, considers the fates of President B. Joseph White and Champaign-Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman.

"I would hope that we would not, as a board, take any precipitous action that may not be in the best interest of the university, such as what the governor did when he said let's get rid of all of the bums, whether they are complicit in the scandal or not," said Montgomery.

Fellow trustee Frances Carroll also refused a request by Gov. Pat Quinn that the two resign their positions, after a commission appointed by the governor recommended the entire board quit voluntarily. After accepting the resignations of seven other board members, the governor decided not to fire Montgomery and Carroll, he says, to avoid a threatened court fight.

Friday, Montgomery said he suspected the real reason the governor backed down from firing the previous board's only two African-American members was political.

"It would have created some serious issues in terms of his support in the Democratic primary for governor," Montgomery.

Earlier this week, the governor appointed Chicago businessman Christopher Kennedy and Attorney Lawrence Oliver to the board as replacements for Lawrence Eppley and Naranjan Shah, the only two members the commission report said were aware of a secret system to admit unqualified but clout-heavy applicants to the university.

At least two of the five other resigned trustees contacted by ABC7 Chicago, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed hope they would be reappointed to the board because they, like Montgomery and Carroll, insisted they had nothing wrong.

Governor Quinn says he will try to fill the five open trustee positions before September 10, the date of board's next scheduled meeting. If the governor does not reappoint some of the resigned members, Montgomery and Carroll would have the longest institutional memories on the trustee board and be the leaders of it.


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