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Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 03:37 pm

Update: ALPLM director out

Resigns after meeting with governor’s staff

Eileen Mackevich

This article has been updated twice from its original form.

Eileen Mackevich, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, has resigned.

Mackevich resigned today after a meeting with top aides to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“I resigned as of today,” Mackevich said. “I resigned for multiple reasons.”

Asked if she was asked to resign, Mackevich responded: “I can honestly say that it was a discussion that we had, and I chose to resign.”

Mackevich, who was the ALPLM’s longest-sitting director, indicated that there may have been differences of opinion with the governor.

“I think that I serve at the pleasure of the governor,” Mackevich said. “If he wants to go in a different direction, he’s entitled.”

Appointed in 2010, Mackevich was the institution’s third executive director. She proved controversial, with critics pointing out that she had never before worked at a museum before getting the post at ALPLM.

Multiple sources tell Illinois Times that Amy Martin, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is also facing dismissal. Rauner last week appointed new members to the IHPA board, which is scheduled to meet Nov. 2. The board has the power to hire and fire the agency director.

Chris Wills, IHPA spokesman, referred questions to the governor’s office. The governor’s office declined comment.

“We have no further comment beyond what’s in the release,” wrote Catherine Kelly, a Rauner spokeswoman, in response to an inquiry from Illinois Times, which broke the story of Mackevich’s resignation shortly before the governor’s office issued a press release stating that the governor had accepted the resignation and that a nationwide search for her replacement is underway.

Nadine O’Leary, the ALPLM’s chief of staff, will serve as acting director until a permanent replacement for Mackevich is hired, according to the press release from the governor’s office.

Mackevich’s departure caps a tenure steeped in recent controversy as she and Martin feuded about how the ALPLM should be overseen. Martin favored the status quo, Mackevich called for the ALPLM to become a standalone institution. Their disagreements simmered behind the scenes for months until finally breaking into the open when House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, sponsored a bill in the spring of last year to separate the ALPLM from IHPA.

Madigan is acquainted with Mackevich and rented office space in Chicago from Stanley Balzekas, who frequently accompanied Mackevich to social engagements. It wasn’t immediately clear Friday whether Balzekas is still Madigan’s landlord. Madigan’s ties to Mackevich and Balzekas prompted speculation that the bill to make the ALPLM a standalone institution had as much to do with personal relationships as politics and public policy.

Madigan’s bill stalled last year, but the general assembly last spring passed a bill that would separate the ALPLM from IHPA and make the institution an independent entity, a concept that Rauner endorsed early this year. The bill hasn’t been sent to the governor. Legislators say that Rauner has threatened a veto because he doesn’t like sunset provisions contained in legislation that would privatize some functions of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which at one point was considered as taking over the functions of the historic preservation agency after the ALPLM became an independent entity. Rauner’s office hasn’t returned phone calls to discuss the bill that would separate the ALPLM from IHPA.

J. Steven Beckett, chairman of an ALPLM advisory board, said that Mackevich’s resignation wasn’t a surprise.

“I had sort of thought that given she was appointed by the prior administration, the new administration would want to set their own direction for the library and museum,” Beckett said. “I’ve enjoyed working with Eileen. I’m saddened to see her go.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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