Pres. says NIU did not violate laws

By Paul Wagner

NIU did not violate any laws when it remodeled former NIU president Clyde Wingfield’s house, and the Auditor General “has no business” judging if the university broke state laws, said NIU President John LaTourette at a press conference Tuesday.

“On the basis of this finding (Illinois Auditor General’s Report), there is no violation of law. In fact, the Auditor General has no business in determining if there was a violation of law. That’s the (jurisdiction of the) judicial system,” LaTourette said.

“He (the Auditor General) has no basis for making judgements as to who violated the law or didn’t violate the law,” LaTourette said, adding, “That’s appropriate for the Attorney General, but not the Auditor General.”

owever, Lyle Manock, audit manager, said the Auditor General is “specifically charged” with determining if laws have been violated. He said the purpose of the Auditor General is to report violations to the Legislative Audit Commission. He said a compliance audit is performed every two years.

LaTourette cited page 33 of the auditor’s report on the remodeling of the former president’s house, which states, “The proper approvals were not obtained before remodeling began on the university president’s home.” The report also states NIU “incurred over $20,000 in remodeling costs” for the home without obtaining permission from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

There is no basis in the Auditor General’s Report to support what was reported by the press, LaTourette said. He said he would not judge if the remodeling was “wrong” because he was not serving as president at the time, “but certainly, you don’t find any basis for wrong doing in this auditor’s report,” he said.

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about. If you read this (the auditor’s report), it’s very hard to figure out what the various news media are saying,” LaTourette said.

The Board of Regents requires all projects more than $25,000 of “non-instructional” nature to be reported by the university and then approved by the IBHE, he said.

The reason the remodeling was not reported to the IBHE for approval is that “it wasn’t $25,000 or more, which is admitted by the auditor,” he said. Less than $25,000 was spent on remodeling the former president’s home, LaTourette said. “It (the Auditor General’s finding) doesn’t say anything about $100,000,” he said.

Purchase orders reveal that as of April 22, 1986 nearly $100,000 was spent on renovation, remodeling and refurnishing Wingfield’s home. Costs to the physical plant for labor and material exceeded $63,000.

LaTourette said there are clear guidelines established by the Regents about what is classified as “remodeling” and what is classified “maintenance” or “repairs.” “That is a matter … of judgement. And someone made a judgement about that. It doesn’t appear that the Auditor General is questioning that judgement,” he said.

The Auditor General concluded NIU did not seek proper approval before beginning remodeling work on Wingfield’s home. Manock said this finding will be reported to the Legislative Audit Commission. He said the commission probably will not take action on the findings until next year.