By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The president and CEO of Land of Lincoln Goodwill resigned Thursday, two days after backtracking on a plan to lay off several disabled employees.
Land of Lincoln Goodwill, a central Illinois not-for-profit thrift store chain with more than 400 employees and 15 stores, announced the resignation of President and CEO Sharon Durbin in a news release Thursday.
“Land of Lincoln Goodwill’s Board is strongly committed to our mission, to our 400 employees and to those individuals with disabilities, veterans, at-risk youth, ex-offenders and those seeking job training assistance that we serve,” Land of Lincoln Goodwill said in a statement. “The Board fully intends to seek out a strong, compassionate leader for our Goodwill organization who can energize our employees, expand our mission and who can provide the mission-driven leadership necessary to positively impact thousands of lives each year in central Illinois.”
The news release from Goodwill said Durbin’s interim replacement will be Ron Culves, the company’s vice president of finance. His salary was $106,063 in the fiscal year ending in June 2018, according to federal tax documents.
Durbin came under fire when local news outlets reported her comments on the company’s intention to lay off disabled workers. She attributed the layoffs to a recently-passed statewide minimum wage hike, which incrementally increases the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
The first $1 hourly hike will not take effect until January, however, and Goodwill qualifies for a federal waiver allowing it to pay certain workers far less than the minimum wage.
She told WCIA-TV in Champaign that the work the disabled employees were performing, “really was not a job.”
By Wednesday afternoon, she had released a statement announcing a reversal of the layoffs and saying the initial decision “falls short of living up to our mission and we apologize for this error in judgment.”
Durbin’s salary of $164,849 in the fiscal year ending in June 2018 was also criticized by advocates and lawmakers, as was the company’s decision to hire her son for more than $95,000 annually.
Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, called on the Illinois Department of Human Services to review $400,000 in taxpayer-funded contracts between the state and Land of Lincoln Goodwill. He said Friday he would continue to call for a review of the organization despite the resignation.
“I am pleased Land of Lincoln Goodwill will be going in a different direction. While the pain that has been caused can’t be undone, we can all commit to policies that make all workplaces more inclusive and fair for all workers,” he said in a Twitter post.
Meghan Powers, a spokesperson for IDHS, said prior to Durbin’s resignation the department was in the process of “carefully examining and reviewing our agreements with Goodwill” and was “prepared to exercise any and all rights to ensure workers are protected.”
On Friday, IDHS spokesperson Patrick Laughlin said the department is “carefully examining the Goodwill situation and more broadly, reviewing employment systems, services and opportunities for people with disabilities.”