COD president uses $102,257 in foundation money to wine, dine donors
The College of DuPage's fundraising arm allowed school President Robert Breuder to spend $102,257 of its funds -- frequently with a COD Foundation-issued credit card -- to wine and dine potential donors and others during the past four years.
While college and foundation officials were quick to defend the spending as a way to increase donations and build support for the school, no other suburban community college presidents have similar access to foundation funds nor are they issued credit cards, a Daily Herald analysis reveals.
Katrina McGuire, executive director of the Friends of McHenry Community College Foundation, said it's not the role of the college president to take donors to lunch.
"That's the role of the executive director of the foundation," McGuire said. "The president has no access to foundation dollars, either by credit card or any other means."
Breuder already has been under scrutiny for spending thousands of tax dollars on meals and liquor from college accounts. His nearly $763,000 retirement package also has drawn scorn from critics and legislators.
Specifics of Breuder's spending of foundation funds are unknown because the organization is not subject to state open records laws. But because the foundation is a registered, tax-exempt nonprofit group, it is required to file annual financial reports detailing its revenues and expenses.
Foundation officials said Breuder's expenses are listed under a single line item titled "Leadership Cultivation Meetings," which first appeared in the organization's 2011 financial disclosure.
Breuder couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. But a spokesman hired by the college issued a statement.
Spokesman Randall Samborn said the money spent didn't come from donations but instead came from earned interest income on assets.
"In every instance, Dr. Breuder's expenditure of foundation funds was authorized and subject to internal audits," Samborn said. "Raising funds for the college is one of the primary responsibilities of any college president."
The foundation credit card was mentioned in one of three subpoenas DuPage County prosecutors have issued to the college since February. The most recent subpoena, dated March 19, sought documents relating to credit card accounts that are used by Breuder but paid for by the college or the foundation.
COD Foundation Executive Director Catherine Brod said only two people have a foundation credit card: herself and Breuder.
She said Breuder uses the credit card -- or receives reimbursements -- for taking donors or prospective foundation board members to lunch or dinner.
"It's for cultivating leadership relationships on behalf of the college," said Brod, referring to the expenses as grants.
Annual financial disclosure reports from six other suburban community colleges -- Elgin, Oakton, Lake County, McHenry, Harper and Waubonsee -- showed no charges to those foundations by the schools' presidents. Administrators of those foundations said access to donor funds is limited.
"The president is not directly involved in raising funds for the foundation," said Jim Sibley, executive director of marketing and communications for Waubonsee Community College.
"She does not have access to foundation funds, does not have a credit card from the foundation, and is not reimbursed by the foundation," Sibley said.
Still, COD Trustee Dianne McGuire said she is comfortable with the idea of the college president having a credit card from the foundation.
She mentioned a recent example in which someone was nominated to become a foundation board member. As part of the vetting process, the individual met Breuder for lunch. The person is now a member of the foundation board.
"That was a perfectly acceptable use of foundation money to bring in a new foundation board member who will contribute way more than what was spent on him," McGuire said.
The foundation has had a significant increase in its cash flow since Breuder came to COD from Harper College in January 2009.
Between July 2009 and June 2010, the COD Foundation's net assets grew from roughly $8.5 million to nearly $9.4 million, according to financial documents required of all nonprofit organizations. From 2013 to 2014, the foundation's net assets grew by nearly $3.5 million for a total of almost $14.5 million.
Increased donations have allowed the number of scholarships awarded annually by the college to double in three years to nearly 900, Brod said.
But critics argue there is no way to tell if Breuder's activities were directly related to the uptick in donations. Additionally, financial reports from the other suburban college foundations show similar growth during the same period.
COD Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen called the amount of foundation money Breuder has spent "staggering."
"That's a lot of money to not have scrutinized," Hansen said. "It's not tax dollars, but people making those donations would certainly raise an eyebrow by the amount being spent. It's just more unchecked, unsupervised spending with no oversight."
Brod said all of Breuder's expenses are reviewed quarterly by the foundation's finance committee. In addition, the expenses are reviewed at least annually as part of an independent external audit performed by Crowe Horwath at the foundation's expense.
"I know for a fact that each and every one of his expenses was reviewed by the audit committee during the last audit," Brod said. "So it doesn't go without a check and balance."