NORMAL — The now former president of Illinois State University is getting almost a half million dollars to walk away from a job he may have been close to losing.
Tim Flanagan abruptly resigned Saturday, pocketing a $480,000 payout and three months of rent-free living at ISU’s presidential mansion.
“You don’t want to get into an argument about the terms of resignation,” ISU trustee Michael McCuskey said.
McCusky wouldn’t say how close the university was to firing Flanagan for his role in an alleged assault on a university groundskeeper.
Flanagan has been under investigation since December when a groundskeeper at the school in Bloomington-Normal said the president started yelling, and bumped and spit on him because of dissatisfaction with yard work.
Illinois State University Police just ended its investigation into the matter, and has sent the case to local prosecutors. No decisions have been made.
ISU trustees were to meet Saturday to discuss “personnel matters,” but Flanagan resigned before any action was taken.
“I have decided it would be best that I pursue other opportunities,” Flanagan said in a statement the university released over the weekend.
McCuskey said ISU is now moving forward.
“The past is over,” McCusky said as he ducked specific questions about the circumstances of Flanagan’s resignation.
But it may not be over.
Illinois State University has been asking for years for more money, either from lawmakers or students, but that might be a tough request when lawmakers see a $480,000 payout to get someone to quit.
“The optics of this, both inside and outside of the statehouse, are going to be poor,” state Sen. Jason Barickman told Illinois Watchdog.
Barickman, whose district includes ISU, said all schools in the state are being told to tighten their belts and expect less money from the Capitol.
“I don’t think they’re going to get a rosy picture from Springfield,” Barickman added. “It’s going to be dire. It is just a question of how dire it is going to be.”
ISU has a budget that tops $400 million. Flanagan was supposed to appear before lawmakers last week to discuss the future of that budget, but he missed that chance to lobby lawmakers.
Barickman said he hopes for some “stability” from the school’s new president, Larry Dietz.
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.