No conflicts with extra job

By Eric Krol

Serving on the state legislative remapping committee did not interfere with the duties of an NIU higher education specialist, an NIU official said.

Gene Hoffman, a political veteran signed by NIU to a one-year, $66,000 contract in March, recently served on the committee which redrew the state’s voting district boundaries.

Hoffman, a member of the state House of Representatives for 24 years, was hired by NIU to help coordinate state-wide efforts to get the income tax surcharge made permanent.

Rep. Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore, said the remap committee was formed in May because a map was expected by the end of June.

The map was announced last week, months after the committee was formed.

Still, NIU officials said Hoffman’s committee membership did not interfere with his NIU duties.

“No, there was not much time involved,” said Ken Beasley, NIU governmental relations assistant.

“I don’t know the exact time he spent. He’s not punching a time clock,” Beasley said.

NIU President John La Tourette was unavailable for comment.

“I’m really not aware of a time frame or what duties were expected,” Burzynski said.

“I’m not aware of any conflicts,” he added.

Hoffman, who lost his seat last November, was out of his Elmhurst office Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Pat Welch, D-Peru, said he did not know the amount of time a member would have spent on the committee.

However, Welch said because of seniority considerations, “NIU had a better deal out of the Democratic map than the Republican map.”

The original remap committee was composed of four Democrats and four Republicans. Hoffman, an Elmhurst Republican, was appointed by House minority leader Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst.

Under the Democrat map, DeKalb would have had a two-year House member and a 10-year state senator, Welch said.

The Republican map places NIU in a district with a probable freshman representative and senator, he said.

Beasley said, “I have no idea who has a better deal. I haven’t seen the map yet.”

Burzynski said although seniority has some advantages in Springfield, anyone elected, including himself, would do their best to represent NIU.

Burzynski said he was not familiar enough with the Democrat map to address it, but added he was fairly confident the Republican map would hold up in court.

Welch was an outspoken opponent of the Hoffman hiring in March.

In March, Welch told The Northern Star, “He is not going to add one iota of clout. It’s a waste of the taxpayer’s money.”

Welch also said he questioned why NIU would spend $66,000 while complaining of lack of state funding.

After the surcharge was made permanent in July, Hoffman was scheduled to work on making contacts in the northwest suburbs, although he would not be involved directly in the controversial Hoffman Estates consolidation project.

Beasley said Hoffman soon will be working with the NIU Social Sciences Research Department. The project entails working with three community colleges to identify course needs in the northwest suburbs, he said.

The project is part of a $70,000 grant approved in September from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Beasley said Hoffman also is working with La Tourette’s office “making contacts and setting up meetings.”

Also, Hoffman is working with Beasley on relations with a DuPage area business group, he said.

offman will be giving speeches on campus to education classes, Beasley said. “Hoffman is an expert on education in this state,” he added.

Hoffman is long considered an advocate of higher education and the Illinois State Board of Education recognized him for his work each year since 1975 for his legislative work on public education.