College of DuPage board: Trustee embarrassed members

The College of DuPage board voted Thursday to censure Vice Chairman Kathy Hamilton for “inappropriate conduct.”

The vote was not unanimous, however. Hamilton and Trustee Kim Savage voted “no.” Trustee Nancy Svoboda abstained.

The resolution censuring Hamilton says she publicly embarrassed board members and college administrators and that she voices her disagreements “by making erroneous statements reflecting negatively against her fellow board members and the administration in an inflammatory, insulting, discourteous and defamatory manner.”

It also stated she behaved discourteously when texting during two prior board meetings and that she failed to provide her texts for public record. The resolution also says that at the July 17 board meeting she turned off her microphone and told Chairman Erin Birt, “What goes around, comes around,” and “I will get you.”

The resolution to censure Hamilton also addressed her “misstatements” about the planned Teaching and Learning Center, a project that Hamilton has openly questioned.

The Teaching and Learning Center, which COD officials say will provide more classroom space, came under scrutiny after the watchdog group For the Good of Illinois obtained an email from COD President Robert Breuder that outlined his plans to secure $20 million in state funding for the project.

“When I introduce Governor Quinn at commencement, I want to help our cause (obtaining the $20 million sooner rather than later) by thanking him for his commitment in front of 3,500 people,” Breuder wrote. “There are many voters in our district. Please keep November 4 in mind.”

After subsequent media attention, the governor's office withheld funding.

Breuder was not available for comment after Thursday's meeting.

Hamilton was the only trustee who voted against committing $30 million for the construction of the center back in June. She wrote letter to the Daily Herald in which she said she thought the project needed further analysis.

“The scope of the funding should not determine the scope of the project. The request for additional classroom space should have included a complete assessment of current and future needs,” she wrote.

Tensions then erupted between Birt and Hamilton at a July meeting.

“With respect to Ms. Hamilton's erroneous comments to the public and her misrepresentations to this board, Ms. Hamilton has not been upfront with the facts regarding the teaching and learning center,” Birt said at that meeting.

The censure resolution described how the Teaching and Learning Center project has been on the college's radar before this year. It also listed how Hamilton signed off on agendas that mentioned the project, suggesting she had no objections.

Hamilton said in an interview Thursday the resolution for censure was not included in the agenda planning meeting she recently attended. In the agenda packet posted online before the meeting, there was a page stating there would be a resolution for censure of a board trustee, but no other details were provided.

Savage said although she did not agree with Hamilton's decision to air her concerns in the press, she said she understood “her frustration with the feeling that her opinions are not being listened to respectfully.”

Savage said that since she has been on the board, there have been efforts to intimidate board members, faculty, staff and community members who ask “inconvenient” or “unwanted” questions.

Savage said the board needs to work as a team.

“Our focus should and must be on ensuring that the College of DuPage provides the best value that it can in preparing a knowledgeable workforce for 21st-century careers,” Savage said.

There must be an underlying sense of respect and trust for other members of the team even when we do not all agree,” she added.

Hamilton said the censure demonstrates a need for reform on the board.

“I will continue to fight for the taxpayer, for the community, for the values I believe that our community reflects and what we need to develop a workforce going forward,” she said.

Kathy Hamilton
  The College of DuPage board meeting was standing room only Thursday night. The board voted to censure Vice Chairman Kathy Hamilton. Mark Black/
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