COD spent more than $687,000 in legal bills in 3 months

The College of DuPage is learning how costly it is to be investigated by the feds.

The state's largest community college incurred more than $687,000 in legal expenses during the months of April, May and June, according to an accounts payable report.

Those bills have one COD trustee concerned the school will far exceed what it spent last year on legal services.

"We understand that it could still be millions and millions of dollars into the future," Trustee Dianne McGuire said during Thursday night's board meeting.

But Trustee Deanne Mazzochi said the growing legal expenses are the result of federal authorities launching a criminal investigation of the Glen Ellyn-based school, which has come under fire for its administrative practices.

"A large amount of the fees are really beyond our control because we are forced to incur those fees as a consequence of the federal investigation," Mazzochi said.

Trustee Erin Birt, who served as board chairman when the federal probe was launched, declined to comment Friday.

COD officials in April received subpoenas requesting years of documents related to college trustees, senior management personnel, COD Foundation members, entities professionally associated with COD Foundation members, and school President Robert Breuder, who has since been placed on paid leave. The foundation is the college's fundraising arm.

Mazzochi, who is an attorney, said that simply responding to federal subpoenas and providing the documents authorities are seeking is an expense that can "run into not only deep six figures, but sometimes into the million dollars plus or more."

"And that's just to respond to the federal government's request for documents," she said.

The law firm Schiff Hardin was hired by Breuder when the federal probe of COD began.

One of the federal subpoenas sought information dating back to Jan. 1, 2009. That includes bank, credit card and debit card records, personnel records, emails, payment records, meeting minutes and recordings, calendars, and records relating to services, contracts or bids.

A second subpoena issued to the college's Suburban Law Enforcement Academy demanded emails, class rosters, instructor grade certifications and academic and grade transcripts.

Because Schiff Hardin had already started the process of responding to the federal subpoenas, the decision was made not to change law firms after Mazzochi and two other new trustees were seated. They are part of a new majority on the board led by Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton.

When the new board was seated, it hired two new law firms. One of them - Chicago-based Schuyler, Roche & Crisham - is doing an internal investigation of the college. The firm recently billed the school $87,223 for services provided in May, records show.

To cover COD's legal expenses during the current fiscal year, the board may set aside $3.4 million for that purpose in the budget.

Mazzochi said she expects that number to drop when federal authorities' requests have been met.

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