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Report: Ex-state higher education leader's departure 'misleading'

A former head of the Illinois Board of Higher Education racked up $6,500 in extra car rental fees and walked away from his post with $32,000 beyond his contract and a “misleading” news release on his departure, according to reports released Friday by the state’s Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza.

George W. Reid was forced to resign from the board in 2012 for misusing his state-owned vehicle, among other things, but the board sent out a news release indicating he had stepped down for personal reasons.

“Dr. Reid acknowledged that while business travel is certainly expected and acceptable, he has decided that it was time to reduce his personal time on the road and to increase his time with family,” the release read, adding that Carrie Hightman, chairwoman of the Board of Higher Education said, “The Board is proud of the work of IBHE during Dr. Reid’s tenure. The Board thanks Dr. Reid for his contributions in Illinois and wishes him all the best for future success.”

The board had hired Reid for $193,000 a year, knowing he’d had his contract voided from Kentucky State University after he used university money there to pay for personal items, including a trailer hitch for his boat and a cat scratching post. He later reimbursed the university $1,600.

In Illinois, Reid had used his state-owned car for personal use, making IBHE pay more than $6,500 in extra car rental fees, according to the inspector general.

In his settlement agreement, the IBHE Board added a clause at the last minute on their lawyer’s advice requiring Reid to consult during the transition to find a new executive director “to make sure there are no press issues that he is being paid for services not performed.”

A woman who answered the phone at Reid’s home started taking a message before the line disconnected. Subsequent calls to that number were not answered.

The inspector general also revealed details about a Northern Illinois University employee who told one of his underlings to clean his boss’ house during her scheduled work hours.

Tom Folowell, who was then the director of operations at the NIU Convocation Center, had the employee meet the wife of his boss, John Gordon, Convocation Center director, at the loading docks three or four times in 2011 and 2012, according to the report. While she was clocked in, she went to clean the Gordon home with the wife, who’d give her $20 afterwards.

The employee filed a complaint with the university. Gordon resigned in 2012 while under investigation for misconduct and was paid severance.

Folowell was suspended without pay for seven days, according to OEIG. An NIU spokesman said he’s no longer employed. Folowell’s voice mail at the university said he resigned. He could not be reached Friday for comment.