College of DuPage won't release tapes of Breuder buyout talks

Citing the advice of their lawyers, College of DuPage trustees won't release audio recordings of closed-door talks that led to President Robert Breuder's highly controversial $762,868 buyout, board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said Wednesday.

Hamilton said she initially supported making the tapes public, but she said the board's lawyers advised otherwise because the recordings involve personnel matters and potential litigation.

Hamilton's statement comes a week after a Daily Herald editorial called on the Glen Ellyn-based community college's newly constituted board to release recordings of the discussions that led the previous board to approve the early-retirement package for Breuder.

“An angry public turned out en masse to decry the agreement,” the editorial read. “Several state legislators denounced it. A dozen candidates filed to run for the three COD board seats up for election and almost all criticized the package.”

The editorial argued that releasing the tapes of the executive sessions would help the public understand how and why trustees made the decision to give Breuder the buyout. It went on to say there's no law prohibiting the release of the recordings.

“In fact, the law requires the board to review them periodically to decide whether they should be made public,” the editorial read. “The board has the power to release them.”

Kathy Hamilton

Hamilton, who was the only board member to vote against Breuder's buyout deal, said she was receptive to the idea of releasing the recordings after three candidates she endorsed were swept into office on April 7.

“My initial view is if people want to know, it's their right to know,” Hamilton said.

But the board's lawyers disagreed.

“Everybody has the right to know,” Hamilton said. “But when you look at the liability, it's not as easy to disclose it. It's a personnel matter. It's also a matter of potential litigation.”

Two of Hamilton's allies on the board - Trustees Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein - said they would have supported the idea of releasing the tapes if there were no legal obstacles.

Bernstein said he believes the public has a right to know how the buyout happened. The question is whether Breuder's right to privacy trumps it, he said.

“I think it would be a good thing to do (release the tapes),” Bernstein said. “I think it would be a healthy thing to do. My understanding is that there may be legal reasons why we cannot do it.”

Trustees Erin Birt, Joseph C. Wozniak and Dianne McGuire, who aren't aligned with Hamilton, couldn't be reached for comment.

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