You Paid For It: Were Renovations to President's House at ISU Excessive?

NORMAL – Illinois State University is in the spotlight a lot lately, and it’s for reasons that aren’t welcomed.

President Timothy Flanagan resigned after 10 months on the job.

His severance package has come under fire from both students and faculty.

Wednesday, Flanagan plead not guilty to disorderly conduct charges in an incident involving a university groundskeeper.

All of that left some wondering what else could be going on.

WMBD dug into records of how the university prepared to welcome Flanagan to Central Illinois, because you paid for it.

Eleven thousand dollars for a fence, more than $1,000 for a microwave shelf, a master bedroom and bathroom remodel cost nearly $109,000, and $2,000 for four “private property” signs.

This is how Illinois State University got ready for a new president to move into the university residence.

“The Bowmans were there 10 years,” says ISU Chief of Staff Jay Groves. “He didn’t leave a lot, didn’t want a lot done when we were there. So, we saw this as an opportunity from May 15th to August 9th when Flanagan moved in to do a major remodeling project because it really needed it.”

Groves says there are reasons why some of the costs we found are high.

Our investigation shows workers were paid nearly $90 an hour to install and paint dry-wall.

“Universities are required to follow state rules and we want to follow state rules for prevailing wage, so we have to pay the highest wage available for a worker that does that, union or prevailing wages,” adds Groves. “Anytime you do a remodeling project for a home, it’s a lot of money. This total remodeling was $175,000, which some people consider expensive. The prevailing wage, that puts the cost up.”

Then-president Flanagan saw the home three times before he moved in.

But Groves tells us, Flanagan didn’t request any of the upgrades.

The university’s Finance and Planning Department outlined it all, at a time when state funding for the public university is uncertain, and the tuition trend is going up.

WMBD’s Maria Chandler asks, “What is your answer to the students? There was a freeze for non-university faculty just a few years ago. How do you justify that?”

“The cost of material and labor is the cost,” answered Groves. And, being in my position in the president’s office, wherever we spend large chunks of money, there are people that will complain and say you should be spending that on something else.”

ISU Associate Professor Richard Sullivan wants ISU to take a closer look at all spending.

He serves as a mentor for the group of students known on campus as “I Paid for Flanagan.”

They’ve rallied for answers in former president Flanagan’s resignation and plans for the new president’s future.

Sullivan believes details surrounding the severance and the renovations are both building on a bigger problem.

“I’m not a maintenance person,” says ISU Associate Professor Richard Sullivan. “I don’t know if the repairs or modifications were necessary. It speaks for a larger dynamic here. There seems to be almost boundless funds or resources available to those at the executive levels.”

The professor and his students are pushing for the university’s practices to be re-examined.

“We want to be and strive to be, it is in our mission statement, a role model for society, what is the best we could do,” adds Sullivan. “We try the best we can to build the kind of university that students, faculty, and staff want to attend.”

Right now, Flanagan is living in the home, and can until May 31st.

Current president Larry Dietz has sold his house and will move in as soon as the Flanagans move out.

The president’s residence serves double duty as an entertaining venue for alumni, faculty, students, and donors.

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