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updated: 1/11/2018 8:24 PM

College of DuPage's legal bill to fight Breuder lawsuit: $527,600 and climbing

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  • The College of DuPage has incurred at least $527,600 in legal expenses defending a 2015 decision to fire then-President Robert Breuder, center, and deny him a controversial $763,000 buyout. Those costs will continue to rise as the two sides argue in federal court.

      The College of DuPage has incurred at least $527,600 in legal expenses defending a 2015 decision to fire then-President Robert Breuder, center, and deny him a controversial $763,000 buyout. Those costs will continue to rise as the two sides argue in federal court.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

The College of DuPage has incurred at least $527,600 in legal expenses defending the 2015 decision by former board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton and three trustees to fire former President Robert Breuder and deny him a controversial $763,000 buyout.

That number, obtained from the college through a Freedom of Information Act request, likely will climb significantly higher because it includes bills only through last May. COD officials say there are additional bills but the college can't release them until it confirms that its insurance provider has paid them.

And with Breuder still challenging his termination in federal court, the cost of the legal battle will continue to rise.

But officials with the Glen Ellyn-based school say COD's insurance provider is paying nearly all the cost.

"In connection with the Dr. Breuder litigation, the college has paid out of pocket its deductible of $75,000," COD spokeswoman Wendy Parks wrote in a statement to the Daily Herald. "The remainder of any litigation costs is being covered by insurance."

Breuder filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit less than 24 hours after he was fired in October 2015. The board's 4-1 vote to terminate him voided the school's $763,000 retirement buyout of Breuder's contract -- a deal approved by the previous board and staunchly opposed by Hamilton and her allies, trustees Charles Bernstein, Deanne Mazzochi and Frank Napolitano.

Breuder sued the COD board and specifically Mazzochi, Napolitano, Bernstein and Hamilton, who has since left the board.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, conspiracy, defamation and violation of Breuder's due process rights. He is seeking more than $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Since Breuder filed his lawsuit, COD has used attorneys from three law firms -- Schuyler, Roche & Crisham; Schiff Hardin; and Drinker, Biddle & Reath -- to defend the board, Bernstein and Napolitano.

Mazzochi and Hamilton hired their own attorneys to represent them.

According to heavily redacted copies of legal bills obtained through the Freedom of Information Act request, the college was billed $165,206 for work that Schuyler, Roche & Crisham did related to the lawsuit from October 2015 to July 2016. An invoice for the month of April 2016 wasn't provided.

Schiff Hardin billed the school $139,416 for work it did on the case from December 2015 to June 2016.

Drinker, Biddle & Reath has worked on the case since July 2016. It had billed the college a total of $223,060 through the end of May 2017. The school didn't provide invoices for work done since then.

The COD board is being covered under the school's insurance policy with the Illinois Community College Risk Management Consortium, a risk pool of state community colleges.

The insurance policy could cover a maximum of roughly $4.9 million of each insurance claim made against the college or the trustees in the case, according to terms of the coverage.

It's unclear whether the school's insurance policy will reimburse Hamilton and Mazzochi for their legal expenses related to the Breuder lawsuit.

"The college lacks knowledge as to whether and to what extent Kathy Hamilton has sought or received reimbursements for legal fees by the insurance carrier," Parks wrote.

An attorney for Hamilton didn't respond to an email from the Daily Herald.

Mazzochi declined to comment.

Breuder also declined to comment through one of his attorneys.

Meanwhile, both sides are awaiting an appellate court's decision on whether Breuder's lawsuit should be dismissed.

Attorneys for the board and the individual trustees filed separate motions in 2016 to dismiss all six counts of Breuder's lawsuit.

In March 2017, U.S. Northern District Court Judge Andrea Wood dismissed one of the counts -- which alleged interference with his contract -- in its entirety. She also dismissed portions of two other counts.

Wood refused to dismiss three other counts in the lawsuit. Two of them allege a due process violation, and the third alleges breach of contract.

That prompted the attorneys for the COD board and the individual trustees to appeal Wood's ruling.

If Wood's ruling stands, the lawsuit will continue at the trial court level. But if the appellate judges overturn Wood's decision, the case could come to an end.

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