College of DuPage faculty members are questioning campaign contributions received by board Chairman Dave Carlin from firms that did business with the college.
The Friends for Education COD Faculty Association political action committee, which is supporting two of Carlin's opponents in the April 9 board of trustees election, are firing back at Carlin for statements he made in a March 13 Daily Herald article.
Carlin took aim at Ed Agustin and Frank Flores, Jr. -- the union-backed candidates -- and said taxpayers would have to "sleep with one eye open" if they were elected because they have the PAC's support.
But PAC officials this week said at least four businesses have contributed to Carlin's campaign fund in the past and suggested he should recuse himself from voting on contracts involving those firms.
"At the minimum, it's a dubious thing to do ethically if you take money from contractors that you've just given pretty large contracts -- sometimes in the millions," said Chris Goergen, the executive director of the faculty PAC and a professor of political science. "It puts the college in a strange light."
Added David Goldberg, a member of the PAC and a political science professor, "To the average citizen who's not paying close attention to COD politics, if you see the board chairman approved contracts, then received contributions for four figures, that to me would raise a red flag."
Goergen and Goldberg said Carlin received $4,400 in contributions from such firms between Jan. 18, 2008, and March 21, 2012. Carlin was elected to the COD board in 2007. He lost bids for state representative in Republican primaries in 2008 and 2012.
The four donations the faculty PAC has questioned are:
• $2,800 from Robert Boller of Wadsworth on March 21, 2012. Boller is CEO of Boller Construction, which received a $671,800 contract for cafeteria renovations at COD in June 2010.
• $500 on Jan. 18, 2008, and $500 on Feb. 17, 2012, from Wight and Company, a Darien-based architecture, engineering and construction firm hired to do several building projects on campus since 2008. The firm is the architect for the McAninch Arts Center and Seaton Computing Center renovation projects.
• $350 on Oct. 4, 2010, from Crowe Horwath LLP, the college's auditor.
• $250 on Feb. 24, 2012, from Loebl Schlossman and Hackl, an architectural firm that designed renovations to the Berg Instructional Center and Student Resource Center. Also, on Jan. 29, 2008, a $250 contribution was made by the Illinois Architects PAC, of which Loebl Schlossman and Hackl was listed as a member.
Carlin said those contributions came during his run in state legislative races -- not the COD board. In the case of Wight and Company, he said he's had one conversation in his life with company Chairman and CEO Mark Wight.
"The fact he wrote a check to my campaign -- the reason to question my credibility or ethics is laughable," Carlin said.
He said the $4,400 in donations isn't on the same level as almost $200,000 the faculty PAC has spent in the past four elections supporting candidates who were elected to the board -- Kathy Wessel, Kim Savage, Nancy Svoboda and Dianne McGuire.
"The disparity is pretty obvious for the average community member to see what's a little bit more concerning," Carlin said.
Faculty PAC officials say Carlin shouldn't criticize others for receiving their endorsement when he has sought and received endorsements from teachers unions.
Carlin sought the faculty PAC's endorsement when he ran for the COD board in 2007, but didn't receive it.
"He was asking us to support him. Now he says being supported by the faculty is a horrible thing," Goergen said. "It's a contradiction I can't wrap my mind around."
Carlin also received $9,250 from IPACE, the Illinois Education Association's political action committee, in January and February 2008 during his first run for state House.
Carlin said in three different elections he has had "diverse support," ranging from conservative activist Jack Roeser to the Sierra Club.
He says he was "naive to the process" in soliciting the teachers union endorsements.
"I figured the (COD faculty) union or IEA was willing to support individuals based on their views, when in reality, at least the COD union wants to buy people instead," he said.
Goergen said three current board members previously endorsed by the union -- Savage, Svoboda and McGuire -- don't tow the faculty line and often make decisions the faculty disagrees with. The faculty PAC's endorsement process, he says, is one way to make sure the faculty has "a seat at the table" like other constituency groups.
"We'd love to not care about board elections and focus on our teaching and research, but under the current administration things have turned so much to worse that now we don't have that luxury," Goergen said.
Also running in the six-way race for two available seats is incumbent Trustee Joe Wozniak, Kathy Hamilton and Mike Lanners. The winners will serve a 6-year term.
• To see all of our coverage of the College of DuPage board of trustees race, including candidate bios, go to http://www.dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/race/College-Of-DuPage-School-Board/