College of Lake County Trustee Barbara Oilschlager defends receiving more than $27,300 in reimbursements over two years, saying much of the tab stems from her fulfilling leadership roles in higher education that benefit the school.
Trustees elected to CLC's board have racked up nearly $110,000 in expenses over the past two years, according to a recent Daily Herald examination.
Oilschlager topped the pack with $27,374 in reimbursements by taxpayers, exceeding the next-closest trustee by about $6,240. Her total included $1,198.73 she received for driving to and from a national community college conference in Boston in October 2012.
Initially unavailable for comment while on vacation, Oilschlager responded Tuesday to criticism about her expenses in the report. CLC board Chairman Amanda Howland said she would not have approved all of Oilschlager's bills if she had been in the top spot at the time.
Oilschlager said many of her expenses are tied to her leadership roles on regional and national organizations, such as the Illinois Community College Trustees Association and the Association of Community College Trustees. She said her professional development and national and statewide contacts have benefited CLC.
"When you serve in leadership, people expect you to be a leader," said Oilschlager, a Vernon Hills resident who's been on CLC's board since 1988.
Declining to elaborate, Oilschlager said she preferred to drive -- rather than fly -- to and from Boston for the Association of Community College Trustees convention.
"People travel different ways for different reasons," she said.
Records show the Boston tab included $1,198.73 in mileage and toll reimbursements. She also charged taxpayers for six hotel nights costing $1,847.
Oilschlager's trip began Oct. 2, 2012, although the conference didn't start until Oct. 10.
While the conference concluded Oct. 13, Oilschlager didn't leave Boston until Oct. 16, according to the I-PASS records she submitted to CLC. She returned to the Chicago area the next day.
Asked if she made personal stops while driving to Boston, Oilschlager said: "I'm not even going to respond to that."
CLC board members approved new spending protocols earlier this year.
Among the new guidelines are requirements for itemized receipts for all spending over $15 and no reimbursement for travel costs that fall "outside the attendance dates for conventions."
It's the second time since 2007 the board's expense reimbursement policies have been tightened. CLC's move in 2007 came after a Daily Herald review showed a vast discrepancy on how elected officials at suburban community colleges can spend on business trips.
Oilschlager said there was nothing wrong with any of the reimbursements she received in the past couple of years from CLC.
"All I can say is, whatever I submitted is within all local guidelines and state statutes," she said.