DuPage County prosecutors probing College of DuPage, charges appear unlikely
An investigation by the DuPage County state's attorney's office into spending at the College of DuPage is unlikely to result in any criminal charges, according to sources with knowledge of the probe.
But critics of the community college's administration are questioning the objectivity of the state's attorney's investigation and already are calling for an independent probe to be done by federal authorities.
Grand jury subpoenas for financial records were issued about two weeks ago to both the Glen Ellyn-based college and its fundraising arm, the College of DuPage Foundation, sources said.
The state's attorney's office has since withdrawn the subpoena issued to the foundation, sources said, and decided not to pursue criminal charges.
While the subpoena issued to the college remains in place, sources said it doesn't appear at this point there was any criminal wrongdoing at the school. Part of the investigation examined the spending by college President Robert Breuder's office, which has been criticized in recent weeks for food and alcohol expenses at the school's upscale Waterleaf restaurant.
Sources, however, said Breuder never hid his expenses from the college's board of trustees; he accounted for all of his spending, and the board approved it.
So while critics can question the college's accounting and fiduciary policy, it doesn't appear at this point that there was anything illegal, sources with knowledge of the probe said.
COD's attorney, Respicio F. Vazquez, issued a statement saying the college "has and will fully cooperate with any government investigation."
Critics have raised concerns about no-bid contracts awarded by the college to businesses that employ members of the COD Foundation Board, which raises money to increase educational and cultural opportunities for the college community. Earlier this month, foundation Executive Director Catherine Brod dismissed claims that vendors for COD benefited from having employees on the foundation board.
COD board Chairman Erin Birt, who has appointed two trustees to review the foundation board, didn't return phone and email messages on Monday.
Meanwhile, three COD trustee candidates who are running together in next week's election are calling for an independent investigation of the college.
The "Clean Slate" candidates -- Charles Bernstein, Frank Napolitano and Deanne Mazzochi -- issued a joined statement Monday in which they said the state's attorney's office, the college and the COD foundation share the same lobbyist.
"It is clear that when it comes to College of DuPage investigations, we need to do whatever we can to bolster the public trust and avoid even the appearance of impropriety," the statement reads. "We call on the United States Department of Education to independently lead an investigation into the irregularities and improprieties that have been raised, particularly where people have risked so much to speak out."
State's Attorney Robert Berlin responded by releasing his own statement Monday.
"As is my long-standing standard policy, I neither confirm nor deny that an investigation is taking place," Berlin said. "Regarding any allegation of a potential conflict of interest, my office would have no conflict into looking into any violations of the law at the College of DuPage or any other governmental entity."
Bernstein, Napolitano and Mazzochi are among 12 candidates vying for three open seats on the COD board.
The other candidates in the race are Claire Ball of Addison, Dan Bailey of Wheaton, Dave Carlin of Naperville, incumbent Nancy Svoboda of Downers Grove, incumbent Kim Savage of Darien, Joseph M. Wozniak of Naperville, Matt Gambs of Naperville, Sandra Pihos of Glen Ellyn, and Roger Kempa of Darien.
Editor's note: Due to the large number of candidates in the COD board race, we're not always able to include all their positions in every election-related story we publish, but we encourage them to post comments at the end of this story to provide their views.