Hoffman finishing up NIU job

By Ken Goze

Former state legislator Gene Hoffman’s controversial one-year job at NIU is almost done and officials said they are pleased with his performance.

However, NIU officials had little to say about the political veteran’s latest venture.

Hoffman, who was signed by NIU to a $66,000 contract last March, won a lobbying job with the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. Hoffman, along with former District President Charles Vaughn, was awarded a $24,000 lobbying contract Tuesday.

Ken Beasley, NIU governmental relations assistant, said he wasn’t aware of the lobbying deal and said Hoffman still is working on an NIU project to identify education needs in the northwest suburbs. The project is part of a $70,000 grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Mike Peddle, Hoffman’s supervisor at the NIU Center for Governmental Studies, said Hoffman is responsible for project design and all business interviews.

“He has major responsibilities,” Peddle said. “He has conducted 26 interviews in three community college districts.”

He said Hoffman is working on one of the project’s four surveys designed to determine course needs in the northwest suburbs, an area NIU already has moved into with its Hoffman Estates center. Peddle said it’s too early to tell what the results are. In an Aug. 26 story, however, Beasley said Hoffman would not be working on the Hoffman Estates project.

“Hopefully, our resources will be better targeted to the area’s needs. Not only the needs we perceive, but those perceived by business, employees and other citizens of the region,” he said.

Peddle said Hoffman’s contract might be extended to the end of March to let him finish the project. Peddle also said he did not know about Hoffman’s new job. Hoffman was out of his office and could not be reached for comment.

Hoffman, who lost his state house seat in 1990, originally was hired to push for a permanent tax surcharge for education, which the legislature approved in July. Controversy has dogged both his hirings by NIU and DuPage County.

Critics in both cases contend that his jobs were the result of political paybacks and connections with the “good ol‘ boy” network. Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, was an outspoken opponent of Hoffman’s hiring in March, saying it was a “waste of the taxpayers’ money.”

Hoffman also served on the state legislative remap committee while at NIU.

Others, both at NIU and DuPage, contend that his 12 terms as a state representative made him an ideal candidate for the jobs. Hoffman long has been considered an advocate of higher education and the IBHE recognized him for his legislative work every year from 1975 until 1990.

Politics aside, Hoffman’s NIU employers said they have no complaints about his performance. “I’ve been extremely happy with Gene’s work. He’s been an asset to this project,” Peddle said.