Looking for a big payday with relatively little effort?
Here's how to do that courtesy of the unofficial Illinois Playbook.
1. Secure a high-level job at a public college, university or other taxpayer-funded entity.
2. Do a lousy job for a few years.
3. Get yourself fired.
4. Collect your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Four easy steps to financial bliss. That's all it takes.
Don't believe me? You must've forgotten this is Illinois.
Western Illinois University provides the latest example of how following the playbook can reap rewards.
The university's governing board recently placed its embattled president on leave, but not without providing him with a generous exit package funded by taxpayers.
Jack Thomas – who faced criticism for the university's declining enrollment, funding shortfalls and an exodus of senior leaders, among other issues – will receive more than $540,000 in walking around money and other benefits all while not working for Western.
That includes his annual base salary of $270,528, which he will be paid – while not working – through June 30, 2021.
And beginning July 1, 2021, Thomas will be able to return to Western Illinois as a professor earning more than $200,000 a year, which would make him the university's highest-paid faculty member.
That's not a bad deal for someone who was so good at his job he was told to stop doing it.
Thomas isn't the only one who followed the Illinois Playbook to perfection, he's just the latest.
Northern Illinois University trustees agreed to pay departing president Doug Baker more than $600,000 in 2017 despite an investigation that found improper spending and other ethical issues around university hiring practices and travel expenses.
In 2015, the College of DuPage offered outgoing President Robert Breuder a severance totaling $763,000 despite allegations of lavish spending and no-bid contracts to connected businesses. After public criticism, the severance was revoked and Breuder sued. The matter is still working its way through the court system.
After Thomas' deal was announced, the Chicago Tribune detailed 13 instances of large severance agreements being paid out by state universities since 2009 totaling more than $5.1 million.
Welcome to Illinois where, if you follow the playbook, you can be paid generously, and not have to work too hard at all.
Dan McCaleb is the executive editor of The Center Square. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.