Prairie State Union Chief Alleges Nepotism in Hiring of Board Prez’s Stepfather

Chicago Heights, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The President of the union representing teachers at Prairie State College is alleging nepotism on the part of the college President, Dr. Eric Radtke, and members of the Board of Trustees.

In a letter to eNews Park Foreset, John H. Flannigan, and English Professor and President of Prairie State College Federation of Teachers, Local 3816, IFT-AFT, makes his case regarding the board’s appointment of Leo R. Alexander as Temporary Director of Labor Relations at a salary of $80,000.00. Alexander is the stepfather of the President of the Board of Trustees, Jacqueline J. Agee, according to Flannigan.

The text of Flannigan’s letter follows:

I am the President of the Prairie State College Federation of Teachers (Local 3816, IFT-AFT), and I want to share with you what has happened recently at the College. An appointment was made at the November Board of Trustees meeting of Mr. Leo R. Alexander as Temporary Director of Labor Relations at a salary of $80,000.00. The position is a new one, and, contrary to normal practice, there was no job search conducted. The reason for the creation of this position was that all five bargaining units at the College have contracts that expire in or around June 2012 and that the volume of work was too great for any one individual to keep track of. Mr. Alexander has worked in the steel industry and, to my knowledge, has no experience negotiating union contracts in higher education. The College’s finances are strained because of the failure of the State of Illinois to uphold its funding obligation to the College, and, as a result, our students have regularly endured tuition increases to close our budget gap. We also have several full-time faculty positions that have remained open and have been put on hold although our enrollment has grown enormously. Adding a full-time position when existing positions are unfilled strikes me as a deep disservice to our students and to the community.

The situation is made far worse because of Mr. Alexander’s personal connections. In trying to discover more about Mr. Alexander’s suitability for the job, I learned that he is the stepfather of the President of the Board of Trustees, Jacqueline J. Agee. (Ms. Agee is a member of the Illinois Bar and practices law at a Lansing, Illinois, office.) I have been told by the President of the College, Dr. Eric Radtke, that all Board members knew of his family connection, as did Dr. Radtke himself, but no one mentioned the fact when the appointment was made. Apparently, Ms. Agee relied on the language of our Board Policy A-5 (available on the College’s Web page at prairiestate.edu under the quick link to “Board of Trustees”), which does not explicitly forbid the hiring of a Trustee’s stepfather for any position. It does, however, exclude a father- or mother-in-law, so I would think that a reasonable reading of the policy would indicate that a step-parent should not be treated more leniently than an in-law for purposes of hiring policies.

At the November Board meeting, Ms. Agee failed to disclose her family connection to Mr. Alexander and, she herself, amazingly, voted in favor of his appointment. I met with the College President on Tuesday, Dec. 13, to tell him what I had found and was dumbfounded to learn that he knew of this connection and decided against telling me or anyone else about it. Mr. Alexander started in his position at the College on Mon., Dec. 12.

I have notified our faculty of these recent actions, and we are planning to confront the Board of Trustees at its next meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 5:00 P.M., in the College’s Board Room. I have appreciated very much the attention your paper has given our College in the past and feel that your investigating this matter and providing a reporter for our Board Meeting could have a very beneficial effect in alerting the public to the Board’s actions and perhaps could get the Board to reverse its appointment.

Sincerely,

John H. Flannigan
Professor of English,
President, Prairie State College Federation of Teachers, Local 3816, IFT-AFT