Madigan Denies Friends Drive Lincoln Library Plan
By The Associated Press, With Additional Reporting from Brian Mackey
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has denied that personal friendships are driving his proposal to make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a separate state agency.
A House committee on Monday approved the Chicago Democrat's idea to break the decade-old institution off from the Historic Preservation Agency. The measure moves to the House floor.
Madigan confirmed he is a friend of library and museum director Eileen Mackevich and her longtime friend Stanley Balzekas.
Balzekas runs a Chicago museum of Lithuanian culture and is landlord for Madigan's state office. But Madigan says he has not been lobbied by either.
Mackevich told the Chicago Sun-Times that the library and museum would be stronger as a stand-alone agency. She said she has no personality clash with Preservation Agency director Amy Martin.
Urbana Attorney Steve Beckett is chairman of the library and museum's advisory board.
He said he and other members of the board have been disappointed at how little say they have in the operation of the Springfield institution.
"We have struggled with vacancies, particularly on the library side," he said. "We have an an internationally pre-eminent library that is currently down 17 staff members."
He said with the museum having a different mission from the Historic Preservation Agency, it would be better off on its own.