COD's Breuder put on administrative leave, needs permission to visit campus
Embattled College of DuPage President Robert Breuder was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday as members of a new majority on the school's board of trustees began implementing some of the sweeping reforms they've been promising since the April 7 election.
The 4-3 vote to place Breuder on administrative leave came just two days after the college announced he was going on medical leave for unspecified reasons and for an unspecified period of time.
As part of Thursday's resolution, Breuder must surrender "all keys, telephones, computers and other equipment or devices" the college has provided to him. He also needs written authorization from new board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton to be on campus or attend college events.
In addition, Breuder is required to cooperate to ensure the duties of the president may be exercised by any appointed acting or interim president.
The action came as Hamilton's three political allies -- newly elected trustees Charles Bernstein, Frank Napolitano and Deanne Mazzochi -- took their seats on the seven-member panel to create a new majority.
Returning Trustees Erin Birt, Dianne McGuire and Joseph C. Wozniak voted against placing Breuder on administrative leave.
"The College of DuPage has been through tough times -- times marked by extraordinary and continuous denial," said Hamilton, who was also elected board chairman on a 4-3 vote at an organization meeting before the special session. "Those troubles are not yet over, but the cause of those troubles are."
Until the board selects an interim president, the role of acting interim president will be filled by Executive Vice President Joseph Collins.
Breuder was not at Thursday's meeting, attended by more than 200 people at the college's Student Services Center.
Hamilton has said Breuder needed to be placed on administrative leave because there are ongoing state and federal investigations into a variety of areas at COD.
On April 13, federal investigators conducting a criminal investigation of COD issued subpoenas requesting an array of documents related to Breuder, college trustees, senior management personnel, COD Foundation members, and entities professionally associated with COD Foundation members. The foundation is the college's fundraising arm.
DuPage County prosecutors also are doing their own probe of COD. They issued subpoenas seeking years of spending records and contract information for Breuder.
Placing Breuder on administrative leave will let the board conduct its own investigation "into the policies, personnel, practices and finances of the college," according to a memorandum in the board packet. Breuder is expected to remain on administrative leave until that probe is completed.
The board taking action to place Breuder on administrative leave enables it to keep him off campus were he to return from medical leave sooner.
Hamilton told the Daily Herald in early March that Breuder's influence on the administration had to be minimized in order for COD move forward.
Then Bernstein, Napolitano and Mazzochi won the three available board seats in the April 7 election after getting Hamilton's endorsement and echoing her criticism of Breuder and COD's financial practices.
They also promised to bring change to the board, which came under fire after awarding a $762,868 retirement package to Breuder.
As part of that deal, Breuder will be paid about three times his base salary when he retires in March 2016. The agreement also requires the school to name its Homeland Security Education Center in his honor.
The retirement package also sparked outrage from residents, students and faculty members. State lawmakers reacted by proposing measures to prevent other public institutions from approving similar agreements.
Hamilton and her allies, meanwhile, have made it clear that they eventually would like to "claw back" Breuder's retirement agreement.
Hamilton has said she believes Breuder should be fired, for cause, with no significant severance payment. She added that Breuder should have been dismissed for lack of oversight a year ago when financial irregularities surfaced at the college radio station.
Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen told the board on Thursday that the faculty is willing to offer its help to "create a new story for the College of DuPage."
"As much as we had hoped it would not happen, there have been questions raised and doubts created that affect (the college's) reputation." Hansen said. "It is everybody's responsibility to restore confidence in College of DuPage. Our work begins tonight."
In the meantime, Hamilton and her allies saw through numerous reforms Thursday -- all of which were approved on 4-3 votes.
The board hired two new law firms, Rathje & Woodward of Wheaton and Chicago-based Schuyler, Roche & Crisham, which will work for the college on an interim basis for up to four months until there's a competitive request for proposals for legal services.
The board also gave approval for Schuyler, Roche & Crisham to investigate "serious concerns" that have been raised about the college's operations and governance. The firm will be able to spend up to $85,000 on outside experts to assist it with the investigation.
Birt questioned the hiring of both firms because of the "appearance or actual conflicts of interest" since they previously represented Hamilton and watchdog groups that sued the college.
The board also approved the suspension of all travel and entertainment reimbursement for trustees for the rest of the year, in order to investigate allegations that there have been reimbursements for "unnecessary and excessive expenses."
The board voted to suspend all house accounts for expenses, including the Waterleaf Restaurant. It recently has been revealed that school administrators and board members spent taxpayers' money on meals and drinks for themselves at the upscale restaurant.
In addition, the new board authorized the Illinois Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the college.
State lawmakers previously gave the old COD board a deadline to authorize spending up to $234,000 for the state to conduct the performance audit, but that deadline was missed.
Initially, it was anticipated the performance audit would examine whether the COD board has followed its own policies and state laws since fiscal 2011.
But Thursday's authorization calls for the performance audit to go deeper.
The new board wants the audit to also include all 2009 and 2010 transactions of the college and the foundation. In addition, the new board majority wants the state to examine all 2009 and 2010 transactions "related to any bond offerings, or utilizing the proceeds from any bond offering."