Invisible man disappears

So what did he really do? Nothing, that’s what.

Ask any NIU student, and it’s unlikely they know who Gene Hoffman is or what he does—and that’s a big problem.

Hoffman, otherwise known as the invisible man, was hired last March to try and help push the income tax surcharge through the state legislature. However, ever since NIU hired him, no administrator has been able to say specifically what Hoffman has been working on. The usual reply was that Hoffman was “building contacts in the northwest suburbs.” However, it was never clear whether Hoffman was working on NIU’s big baby in the area, the Hoffman Estates consolidation center. Ken Beasley, NIU assistant for government affairs, said last August that Hoffman was not directly involved with the project. But just this week, Mike Peddle of the Center for Governmental Studies said Hoffman has been working lately for him, doing surveys on guess what—educational needs in the northwest suburbs. Who’s jerking who’s chain around here anyway?

What’s even sillier is that Hoffman’s duties on this project have been described as “conducting interviews and visiting junior colleges.” For $66,000 a year, that doesn’t seem like much. Where’s the beef?

Since beginning his employment at NIU, Hoffman has never returned a phone call to The Northern Star. Heck, he’s never even been in his Elmhurst office when a phone call was made.

Well, we do know Hoffman was working on the state legislative remapping commission last fall and recently landed a controversial lobbying job with the DuPage County Forest Preserve. While doing public service such as working on the remap committee is understandable, getting paid by NIU while searching for another job certainly is not acceptable.

Of course, the NIU administration has denied that Hoffman is dead weight on the payroll—about $66,000 of dead weight to be exact.

Let’s be honest—this job was the result of a political payback. Hoffman was a state legislator for over 15 years when he lost his reelection bid in 1990. Higher education needed a lobbyist to help with the surcharge push, and NIU obviously had some spare change floating around somewhere in its pockets. Being kind, generous souls, the NIU administration decided to foot the bill. However, those who would know, including Sen. Pat Welch, D-Peru, said Hoffman would not add one iota of clout in Springfield. The old boy network had struck again.

Now there’s talk of extending his one-year contract until the end of March. The rationale behind this is that Hoffman has not yet completed his work. Paying Hoffman any more money would be a brainless gesture on NIU’s part. We’ve sunk enough money into this pig-in-a-poke already.

Although the NIU administration can whine about budget recisions until the cows come home, they probably shouldn’t expect too much more money from Springfield when they give it away for failed projects.