COD board to consider firing Breuder

College of DuPage trustees are poised to begin the process of firing embattled President Robert Breuder, an effort that could start Thursday but may take months, officials said Tuesday.

A final vote to fire Breuder for cause, however, would require support from at least five of the seven board members, according to the terms of his contract. He also must be given 45 days to fix the problems raised by the board.

Breuder was put on paid administrative leave at the end of April after a new majority was elected to the board amid a public furor over a $762,867 severance agreement the old board approved for him.

Since that time, the Glen Ellyn-based school — the largest community college in the state — has been subject to state and federal investigations as well as internal probes into questions about its finances and administrative practices.

“COD's president has been on administrative leave pending the results of our investigations,” board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said Tuesday in a written statement. “The investigations have resulted in this proposed action for board consideration.”

Hamilton, who long has called for Breuder's ouster, declined to elaborate when reached by phone.

“We are not commenting on anything regarding this topic,” she said. “It's a personnel matter; it's a very serious matter.”

Breuder could not be reached for comment.

The Thursday board meeting is scheduled to begin with a two-hour executive session at 5 p.m. The public meeting will begin about 7 p.m., according to an agenda posted Tuesday. It includes the “authorization to initiate termination proceedings” against Breuder.

If the board votes to authorize the action, Breuder will be notified of the bid to terminate his employment. There also will be hearings and Breuder will be given the opportunity to challenge the firing.

If it comes to a final vote, though, at least one minority board member will have to side with Hamilton and three other trustees who want Breuder gone. That fifth vote would have to come from among veteran board members Erin Birt, Dianne McGuire or Joseph Wozniak.

Attempts to reach Birt and McGuire were unsuccessful Tuesday, but Wozniak said he would oppose any effort to fire Breuder.

“I don't think it's a good idea,” he said. “It looks like they just don't want to pay him (the buyout amount).”

He said he's concerned that if Breuder is fired he will file a lawsuit against the college that ultimately could cost taxpayers more money than the buyout.

But Trustee Charles Bernstein, a Hamilton ally along with Frank Napolitano and Deanne Mazzochi, said Breuder's employment status is an issue that needs to be addressed by the board. “We will be doing that on Thursday,” he said.

Bernstein said he isn't aware of what's been uncovered during the ongoing internal probes of Breuder and his administration.

“If the investigations support termination, I will absolutely be for terminating for cause,” he said. “If there's cause, then he needs to be terminated for cause.”

Napolitano declined to comment Tuesday and Mazzochi could not be reached.

Among the questions swirling around Breuder are some involving whether his initial contract and subsequent extensions were illegally approved and whether the severance deal can be undone.

That procedure appears to come up on Thursday's agenda, too, under a “Request that DuPage County State's Attorney Pursue Enforcement of Attorney General's Opinion.”

The Illinois Attorney General's office said in a nonbinding opinion that the COD board failed to properly inform the public in 2011 that it was voting on a contract extension for Breuder.

However, others have noted that extensions of Breuder's contract were no different from what was done for prior college presidents, dating back to the 1990s.

COD spokesman Randall Samborn on Tuesday declined to talk about what could happen to the buyout deal if Breuder eventually is fired.

“We're not at that point yet,” Samborn said. “I am not going to speculate about what could happen months down the road.”

Bernstein, however, said he hopes that “when we terminate for cause, that the buyout will no longer be operable.”

Robert Breuder's community college history

March 1981: Breuder hired as president of Williamsport Area Community College in Pennsylvania.

September 1997: Breuder resigns to take over in January 1998 as president of Harper College in Palatine.

April 2001: Harper faculty gives Breuder “no confidence” vote.

October 2002: Faculty stages 12-day strike.

December 2002: Breuder says he'll retire when his contract ends in July 2005.

December 2004: Breuder signs 2-year extension.

September 2005: Breuder signs another extension to keep him at Harper until June 2009.

September 2006: Harper faculty threatens to strike.

October 2008: Breuder announces plans to retire.

November 2008: College of DuPage board hires Breuder as president with a contract through June 2012, starting salary of $249,000. He gets a $508,000 severance package from Harper.

January 2009: Breuder begins presidency at COD.

April 2009: Contract extended until June 2015.

July 2010: Feud with Glen Ellyn over placement of COD's electronic signs and other regulatory issues begins, leading to a court battle.

March 2011: Negotiations begin on new faculty contract and drag on for more than a year.

July 2011: Breuder's contract extended through June 2016.

October 2011: Breuder pet project, a $25 million culinary arts and hospitality center with hotel and restaurant, opens.

June 2012: Faculty and COD board agree on 3-year contract.

July 2014: Breuder email suggests putting Gov. Pat Quinn on spot by publicly thanking him for $20 million in state funding. Quinn withdraws the funds.

August 2014: COD board censures fellow board member Kathy Hamilton after she questions spending and leadership of the college.

September 2014: Faculty issues “no confidence” vote against Breuder.

November 2014: Breuder says he has no plans to quit and will serve out the remainder of his contract, then set to end in June 2019.

January 2015: Breuder announces he'll retire in March 2016. COD board approves a $762,000-plus buyout package.

April 2015: Slate of candidates backed by Breuder foe Hamilton win election, form new majority on board.

April 2015: Federal authorities launch criminal probe of COD, seek financial records of Breuder, trustees and senior management.

April 2015: Breuder takes medical leave, shortly thereafter is placed on administrative leave by new board majority.

May 2015: State legislators push for end to “lavish perks” such as the Breuder severance package.

August 2015: Trustees vote to close upscale Waterleaf restaurant.

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