Subscribe for 33¢ / day

NORMAL - Gov. Rod Blagojevich has reappointed businessman Jay D. Bergman to a second term as an Illinois State University trustee.

"It's exciting to be a part of an institution that's rising from being a good university to a truly great university," he said Wednesday.

Bergman's second term began Tuesday and continues through Jan. 17, 2011.

News the Joliet oil man will continue on the board was met with disappointment from ISU student environmentalists - who pushed for Blagojevich to remove Bergman from the board.

"When I read it (that he'd been reappointed), I just felt sick," said Amy Butterworth, an ISU student who is a member of the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

The group gathered more than 1,100 signatures calling for Bergman's removal.

"I'm really disappointed in the governor. … But, I'm not surprised," she said.

Bergman first was appointed an ISU trustee in 2003. But the next year, he became the subject of a campus controversy when allegations arose his company was polluting the environment with oil spills.

In October 2004, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a complaint alleging Bergman's Hinsdale-based Petco Petroleum was responsible for the spills.

In a settlement agreement announced earlier this month, Petco will pay $135,000 as a civil penalty. The money will go to an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency protection trust fund.

The state also had three previous cases against Petco, said Thomas Davis, bureau chief for the attorney general's environmental division. Petco lost its appeal to pay $168,000 in one case, and paid $67,000 total in the other two cases, he said. No litigation remains, said Davis.

A similar case in Michigan cost Petco nearly $4 million.

Bergman's term as an ISU trustee expired January 2005. Blagojevich's staff said the governor wouldn't decide whether to reappoint Bergman until the case's outcome had been decided.

On Wednesday, Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said the governor weighed the concerns of the ISU student petitioners. But after examining Bergman's record as a trustee, he believed Bergman's dedication to the university was clear.

"He has demonstrated a strong commitment to ISU. He works in the best interest of the university," she said.

The trustee defended his company's environmental record, saying, "I think for a company this size, that it has a good environmental record.

"For any large business, there will be accidents. The question is whether you do all you can to prevent them, and if they happen, if you clean them up," he said.

Bergman says his work with Petco is "completely separate" from work on the ISU board, and shouldn't be connected.

His financial back ground, and tenacity to ask questions at meetings has made him an effective trustee he said.

Besides his role as CEO and president of Petco, Bergman is chairman of the Board of American Heartland Bank and Trust Company, Sugar Grove, and a nearly 20-year member of the ISU Foundation board. He's a 1970 graduate of Illinois State.

Among other ISU trustees whose terms expired in January 2005 - Jaime Flores, Nancy Froelich, and Diane Glenn - none gained reappointment. Bergman was the only Blagojevich appointee among the four.


Load comments