COD's Breuder ordered positive mailers before election, board told
College of DuPage President Robert Breuder issued the commands -- and then found the money -- for a series of postcards that were produced and distributed "to balance" some of the negativity about the college, school officials revealed Thursday night.
Joseph Moore, the school's vice president of marketing and communications, told trustees at a special board meeting that Breuder asked him during the first week of March to produce a postcard that eventually was mailed districtwide to about 377,000 households. Requests for additional postcards soon followed.
When asked by trustees what may have prompted the request, Moore said he would "not want to presume to read Breuder's mind."
"The discussion at the time was that there was a lot of negativity in the air regarding the college," Moore said. "This was meant to balance some of that negativity."
Breuder has since been placed on paid administrative leave by the board.
The Daily Herald reported Wednesday the college sent out two postcards and a 12-page magazine produced by COD's marketing and communications department to homes in DuPage County and parts of Will and Cook counties before the April 7 election. One of the 6-by-11-inch postcards, which discusses the college's financial record, arrived in mailboxes just three days before the election, in which three candidates who questioned the college's financial management won.
New board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton has criticized the mailings as "electioneering."
After Moore received the request from Breuder for the first postcard, he told Breuder that his department only had enough money to pay for one set of postcards.
So Breuder arranged for the transfer of $153,000 from the college's contingency fund, Moore said.
Breuder, too, provided guidance in the content of the mailings, according to Moore.
"Is that usual?" Hamilton said. "I would think a marketing piece would originate from the marketing department, not Dr. Breuder."
"It's probably not usual to have four districtwide postcards and have input from Dr. Breuder on that," Moore responded.
The postcards weren't originally contemplated as a series, Moore said, but once it became apparent that it was, he sought board approval in April for the final two postcards that were to be sent out in early May.
After Hamilton became board chairwoman, she found out about the postcards and removed approval of the last two from the April meeting agenda.
Moore said he wasn't aware if anyone on the board knew about the postcards before they were sent out.
Trustees also questioned members of the college's financial department about the transfer of funds.
"Dr. Breuder instructed you to take $153,000 out of the contingency fund to the marketing department and you didn't let anybody on the board know this was going on?" board Vice Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi asked.
Tom Glaser, senior vice president of administration and the college treasurer, said he was instructed by Breuder to make the transfer, and board members are informed of such financial transfers on their agendas.
Current college policy allows them to review the transfers quarterly, but Hamilton said next week the board will consider changing that policy to allow for more frequent review.
The COD mailers have led state legislators to consider prohibiting any unit of local government from sending "promotional" materials for as many as three months before an election. A bill proposed by state Sen. Michael Connelly, a Lisle Republican, passed the Senate and is now being considered by the House.