COD board says yes to $762,000 Breuder severance deal
College of DuPage President Robert Breuder is due to receive a $762,000 buyout package when he retires in 2016 under terms of a four-page agreement approved Thursday by the college's board of trustees.
Breuder, the college's president since January 2009, will be paid nearly three times his base salary when he retires March 31, 2016. His last contract had him working into 2019, but he said in a letter to the board, "With age comes the inevitable reality that time is precious."
COD trustees met for an hour and a half in closed session Thursday night, without Breuder in the room, before taking a 6-1 vote in open session to approve the buyout package. Board Vice Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton was the lone "no" vote.
"To award a golden parachute to Dr. Breuder is nothing more than a wanton betrayal of our students," said Hamilton, a frequent Breuder critic. "Instead we should show Dr. Breuder the door."
Breuder, 70, is paid a base salary of $292,739, but with other benefits, he receives a total compensation package of $484,812.
Trustee Kim Savage thanked Breuder for his service and offered her congratulations on deciding to retire.
"We now have an institution that is a desired institution to come to, not an institution of second choice," she said.
Breuder declined to comment after the meeting. Board Chairman Erin Birt, when asked if she thought the severance was a fair number, said, "The board agreed it was a fair number."
As part of the agreement, the college would name its new Homeland Security Education Center after Breuder as long as he maintains "conduct that is not materially detrimental to the reputation of the board and/or the college."
Last April, Breuder expressed an interest in retiring in March 2016, the agreement proposal said. He and the board have spent the past nine months discussing the terms and conditions.
Breuder sent a formal letter to the board Tuesday announcing his intent to retire.
"During the Christmas holidays, I took time to look ahead and define my future," he wrote. "I concluded the time was at hand to make a life decision."
As recently as last November in a newsletter to college employees, Breuder tried to quell rumors of his retirement.
"I have a contract that extends through June 30, 2019, which I expect to honor," he wrote.
Now, as part of the agreement, Breuder will help the board in the search to find his replacement.
During his time with COD, Breuder has overseen a $550 million transformation of its Glen Ellyn campus. The college also has experienced increased enrollment while the state's community college system struggles with enrollment declines.
But Breuder's tenure also has known no small amount of discord. He has fought with faculty and the village of Glen Ellyn, and he lost a $20 million state grant after a candid email of his was made public.
And as details of the proposed agreement became public, one government watchdog blasted the proposal.
"This is clearly an outrageously large package," said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the government finance watchdog group For The Good of Illinois and the transparency website OpenTheBooks.com. "Students and taxpayers are angry that this agreement was negotiated for months in secret and that total costs, including pension spiking, will run into the millions."
Adding that the proposal "wasn't properly vetted with stakeholders," Andrzejewski called on COD trustees to postpone Thursday night's vote to conduct a cost analysis and "consider the views of students and taxpayers."
Thursday's vote came months after the union representing COD's 306 full-time faculty members announced in September a first-time "no confidence" vote in Breuder's leadership. They blamed him for helping create "an environment of turmoil, distrust, fear and intimidation."
But a college spokesman quickly dismissed the vote at the time, saying the full-time faculty and Breuder had a strained relationship since tumultuous contract negotiations in 2011. The administration also noted faculty members who voted represent only about 10 percent of the college's employees.
Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen said after Thursday's board meeting that details of the buyout should have been shared with the public in advance of the vote.
"There's no reason this couldn't be handled in an open way, which has been a problem since the May email," Hansen said.
Union leaders said last fall's secret-ballot vote was done after a controversy last summer in which Breuder told COD board members he would publicly thank former Gov. Pat Quinn during commencement ceremonies for grant money from the state before the governor actually approved releasing it.
Breuder defended his plan, saying that after the college waited a dozen years for a promised state construction grant that never materialized, he saw an opportunity to get the $20 million.
But after an email detailing Breuder's plan became public, Quinn withdrew the grant.
In 2010, the COD board discussed de-annexing from Glen Ellyn after a high-profile squabble between the college and Glen Ellyn that began with a dispute over the installation of electronic directional signs. The two sides reached an agreement in February 2012 over jurisdictional matters on the 273-acre campus.
Breuder has run community colleges since 1981, when he was named president of Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport at the age of 36. He served there until taking the reins at Harper College in Palatine in 1998, where he stayed until he left for COD.
• Daily Herald staff writers Safiya Merchant and Jake Griffin contributed to this report.
Robert Breuder's contractBase salary: $249,000 (first year, 2009)
Current base salary: $292,739 (17.5 percent increase)
Deferred compensation: $72,000 (first year)
Current deferred compensation: $85,000 (estimate)
Pension payment: 8 percent, or $19,920 (first year)
Current pension payment: $23,419
Car allowance: $8,400
"Professional development" stipend: $8,400
Vacation: 25 days
Personal days: 5
Housing allowance: $18,000
Tax-sheltered annuity payment: $24,900
"Respite and renewal" leave: 12 days in summer
Source: President's employment contract