Courtesy of the Way Back Machine, we can take a stroll down memory lane and revisit the cronyism of the past six years. As we all know, our departing president is fond of hiring his cronies into key administrative positions here at Chicago State, regardless of their demonstrated qualifications or abilities. Even basic dishonesty is not sufficient to eliminate one of Baldy’s cronies from consideration for a senior administrative position. Let’s take a look at the pricetag for these various hirings and evaluate the results. As always, this is my interpretation and any errors are exclusively mine.
First, we will break down the hires into several categories: 1) the original cadre, brought mainly from City Colleges; including the girlfriend. Four of these five people are still in place and continue to blight the university with their presence. 2) Cronies filling jobs created out of thin air just for them. 3) Cronies whose applications or resumes contained demonstrable lies. Despite Human Resource policies calling for termination for willful falsehoods on application materials, these persons retained their positions and were even promoted. There will be some overlap as some persons fall into more than one category. Here are thumbnail sketches:
We begin with the fabulous five. These persons came with our new president and four still remain. This is truly the “inner circle.” First hired was Renee Mitchell as Human Resources Director. Mitchell came from CNA Insurance and may have been acquainted with the president’s girlfriend who also worked there as basically a clerk. According to the university web site, Mitchell holds a Ph.D. In reality, she has a Doctor of Management from the University of Phoenix, a degree that can be acquired in around three years at a cost of $54,000. During her tenure as HR Director, Mitchell has been a reliable rubber stamp for a number of bad decisions. She is aware of the lies on the application of the girlfriend. Total salary paid since 2009 for Mitchell: $843,000.
Two days after Mitchell, Ronnie Watson arrived. The Police Chief, known for his dog and spectator shooting abilities, faithfully executed all of our president’s wishes. During his tenure, the Chicago State police department featured one of its officers choking out a student during a Board of Trustees meeting, in full view of the president and various other “dignitaries.” Mercifully, this guy retired at the end of June. Total salary for Ronnie Watson: $766,000
Next hired was Patrick Cage, the university’s General Counsel. Cage came with the new president from City Colleges and has also rubber stamped a number of bad decisions, most notably, the firing of James Crowley which resulted in a judgement now approaching $4.5 million. That Cage had no need to compete for the job seems apparent given the perfunctory two-page resume he submitted for the position, which included a 13 year gap in employment. Total salary for Cage since 2009: $946,000.
Then the girlfriend, Cheri Sidney, came along. She possessed absolutely no qualifications for a senior management position anywhere and lied about her academic credentials on her application materials. Nevertheless, the new president created three successive jobs for her in less than two years, each new job coming with a nice pay increase. Since her placement in a senior Enrollment Management position, Chicago State’s enrollment has declined by 34.1 percent, to its current anemic count of 4767 students. Total salary paid for Sidney: $704,000.
Also hired early in the new administration (probably late November or early December) was Bernetta Bush, the “Ethics” Officer. Our soon-to-be gone president brought her along from City Colleges, where he appointed her Ethics Officer on December 10, 2007. A previous Ethics Officer had refused to countenance our departing president’s abuse and subsequent unlawful termination of a City Colleges administrator that ultimately cost the District $1.175 million. Bush, who also serves as our departing president’s personal counsel (is that a conflict of interest?) has dedicated herself to fighting for our president’s good name; without much success. Total salary paid for Bush: $516,000.
Next we come to people for whom the president created jobs. I’ve already mentioned Sidney, but in August 2011, the president brough Maricela Aranda from City Colleges and installed her as an Associate Vice President of Administration and Finance, even though that division already included both a Vice President and another Assistant Vice President. Aranda was so special, the administration created a new budget sub account just for her. Total salary paid to Aranda: $674,000.
Later that same year, our president created another senior administrative position for Damon Arnold, who had apparently been relieved of his duties as the Illinois Director of Public Health. Our president installed Arnold as the Director of the new Public Health program at a salary of $140,004. At his hiring, the program included 4 (four) students. He later became an Assistant Dean of the College of Health Sciences, possibly in recognition of his great work in the Public Health program. Notably, Arnold applied for his initial position on the afternoon of his first day at work, since the position had only been created by the president two days earlier. While he worked at Chicago State, Arnold apparently frequently failed to come to work and was actually asked to account for his whereabouts on more than one occasion by Health Science administrators. Arnold left the university sometime in 2014 I believe, and I have no idea what he’s currently doing. Total salary for Arnold: $389,000.
Sometime in the 2011-12 fiscal year, the president created the position of Executive Assistant to the President for Napoleon Moses. Although Moses seemed actually competent and was certainly personable, no one really understood why such a position existed. The university funded Moses’s salary by transferring money from the Internal Improvements account. Moses departed in May 2013. Total salary for Moses: $314,000.
In August 2012, Tyra Austin, who had apparently caught the attention of Cheri Sidney, began working as an Assistant Director of Financial Aid, another position created by the president, apparently just for her. Austin, who had not even acquired a Bachelor’s degree in anything, also demonstrated an ability to be frequently absent from work. Austin falsified her resume to gain employment. However, even after being notified of that fact, the administration did nothing. To her credit, Ausin ultimately resigned her position in mid-2014. Unfortunately, before she left, her total salary came to $120,000.
Our final category includes those administrators whose application materials featured demonstrable lies, falsehoods, or misrepresentations. In a university with a shred of integrity, these misdeeds would result in termination. Not here, of course. I’ve already discussed Cheri Sidney and Tyra Austin, but our current Provost, Angela Henderson, also falls into this category. Originally hired as the Vice President of Enrollment Management, a position for which she had no previous work experience or apparent qualifications, Henderson needlessly claimed she would receive her terminal degree in June 2011, when she had not even begun her research. She also neglected to include a nearly six-month long change in work duties while at City Colleges. Ultimately, the president hired her into the Interim Provost’s position, even though she had yet to complete her terminal degree, which she received in August 2013. While Henderson led Enrollment Management, the school’s enrollment declined by 17.2 percent in two years. Her performance as Provost has been equally disastrous: Two comments from one of our senior administrators illustrate. In late 2014, this:
“West Campus - apparently Henderson is telling everyone we are opening the west side campus for classes in February. The site hasn't been approved by either IBHE or HLC yet. Frankly, I don't believe they even have the site applications in yet.” Remember the West Side Campus? What happened to that?
Then recently: “Henderson's decisions really are our downfall: the closing of BOG, the move from a nationally standard 10 day census to a 38 day census, pilfering from the gaming scholarship money to use for her needs, and CommomApp. Just devastating.” The price tag for Angela Henderson: $869,000.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of all the administrative crony hires that have occurred during this administration, these are just some of the most expensive. Altogether, we’ve spent $6.1 million on these various administrators since October 2009. The results? Catastrophic.