A three-person slate of candidates vying for a spot on the College of DuPage board and endorsed by Trustee Kathy Hamilton says it will provide greater transparency and financial oversight.
Calling themselves the "Clean Slate," Deanne Mazzochi, Charles Bernstein and Frank Napolitano are three of 12 candidates running in the April 7 election. The other candidates are Dan Bailey of Wheaton, Claire Ball of Addison, David Carlin of Naperville, Roger Kempa of Darien, Matt Gambs of Naperville, Sandra Pihos of Glen Ellyn, Joseph M. Wozniak of Naperville, incumbent Nancy Svoboda of Downers Grove and incumbent Kim Savage of Darien.
The slate supported by Hamilton -- a frequent critic of COD President Robert Breuder -- says it will bring much-needed change to the board, which has come under fire after awarding a $762,868 severance package to Breuder.
That package, which Hamilton opposed, calls for Breuder to be paid nearly three times his base salary when he retires on March 31, 2016, about three years before his contract's scheduled expiration date. It also calls for the college to name its Homeland Security Education Center in Breuder's honor.
Savage, who voted in favor of the severance deal, told the Daily Herald she supported parting ways with Breuder in the wake of a "no confidence" vote by the college's full-time instructors in September.
"Part of my concern is there has been tension with the faculty all along," Savage said.
Fellow incumbent Svoboda has not responded to requests for comment on the buyout package.
Since the board's approval of the agreement, some state legislators have proposed multiple bills to restrict other public institutions from greenlighting similar deals and have requested a performance audit of COD finances since 2011.
"As a group, with some individual exceptions, the other candidates represent the establishment interests, political hacks and retreads that put COD where it is today," Clean Slate chairman Jim Nalepa said at a Monday news conference in Lombard.
Bernstein, a retired businessman with a MBA, said he is running because current board members have "abandoned their oversight responsibility."
With Mazzochi, Napolitano and Hamilton also onboard, he said the new slate could effect important change.
"We are three votes and along with Kathy Hamilton's, we will have four votes on that board that will enable us to turn that board around and make it the oversight body that it is required by law to be and that COD and the community need it to be," Bernstein said.
Napolitano, a Bloomingdale resident and former Elgin Area District U-46 school board member, said the public can no longer trust the college board or its administration.
"Dr. Breuder should be reporting to and answering to the board, but they don't ask any tough questions, there is no real oversight," Napolitano said. "If elected, together with Charles Bernstein and Deanne Mazzochi, we will change that. We will restore the public trust in this fine institution."
Mazzochi, an Elmhurst patent attorney and litigator, said the college's board has been failing the students and taxpayers it is supposed to represent.
Mazzochi said she has experience negotiating contracts and there are many contract irregularities and failures when it comes to the board.
She said trustees can start by talking about "clawing back (Breuder's severance package), following open-bid laws, and actually ensuring that any contract is publicly disclosed, debated and voted on during a true open meeting."
"And when it comes to that most important contract that the board of trustees enters into, the one with the president of the College of DuPage," Mazzochi added, "a vote for me and for the three of us for COD trustee means that the public can trust that the same people who were involved in Dr. Breuder's contract debacles are not going to be deciding or negotiating the next college president contract."
During Monday's news conference, Bernstein said he would like to explore the possibility that Breuder may be induced to leave before March 2016.
Hamilton said Bernstein, Mazzochi and Napolitano represent the future for the college.
"These individuals, the Clean Slate, will be at your doorstep, knocking on your doorstep," Hamilton said. "From Will County to Wheatland to Wayne to Addison to Aurora, they will be there and they will be there to reform the College of DuPage."