What you can expect from the new College of DuPage board

College of DuPage board majority breaks ranks; asks questions

 
 
Updated 5/23/2015 7:10 AM
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  • At their first board meeting on April 30, new College of DuPage trustees Deanne Mazzochi, Charles Bernstein and Frank Napolitano joined with new board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton to hire law firms, authorize the state to conduct a performance audit, approve an internal investigation and place embattled school President Robert Breuder on paid administrative leave.

      At their first board meeting on April 30, new College of DuPage trustees Deanne Mazzochi, Charles Bernstein and Frank Napolitano joined with new board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton to hire law firms, authorize the state to conduct a performance audit, approve an internal investigation and place embattled school President Robert Breuder on paid administrative leave. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Kathy Hamilton

    Kathy Hamilton

  • Deanne Mazzochi

    Deanne Mazzochi

  • Erin Birt

    Erin Birt

  • Frank Napolitano

    Frank Napolitano

After another five-hour meeting, two things are clear about the new-look College of DuPage board of trustees.

First, the new board members are prepared to question every expenditure, including items appearing on the consent agenda that normally sail through without discussion.

Second, while they all campaigned together during the spring election, the three "Clean Slate" candidates aren't always voting as a bloc as they seek to reform the Glen Ellyn-based community college.

At their first board meeting on April 30, new trustees Deanne Mazzochi, Charles Bernstein and Frank Napolitano joined with new board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton to hire law firms, authorize the state to conduct a performance audit, approve an internal investigation and place embattled school President Robert Breuder on paid administrative leave.

All of those decisions came in 4-3 votes of the seven-member panel, with holdover trustees Erin Birt, Dianne McGuire and Joseph C. Wozniak providing the opposition.

On Thursday night, however, Bernstein and Hamilton voted differently than their political allies Mazzochi and Napolitano on several issues.

There even were times where Birt, the former chairwoman of the board, voted the same as Mazzochi and Napolitano. Birt didn't explain the reasoning behind many of her votes.

"We're independent thinkers," Hamilton said Friday. "Everyone has their own opinion. It is a strength."

While Hamilton said she and the Clean Slate candidates she helped get elected won't vote in lockstep, she stressed that won't get in the way of their reform agenda.

"We're reformers," she said. "We're very serious when it comes to reform."

College of DuPage has been under intense scrutiny since last summer, when Breuder lost a $20 million state grant after one of his emails -- intimating that the school should create a reason why it needed the money -- was made public.

The controversy intensified in January when the prior board approved a $762,868 buyout package for Breuder, who is scheduled to retire in March.

After government watchdog groups raised questions about how taxpayers' money was being spent, state and federal investigators began looking into operations at the school.

Considering what has happened, Mazzochi said she wanted to send a message to COD's administration.

"If you're coming before me because you need my approval, I want to make sure I'm making a reasoned and informed decision," she said. "No more rubber stamps."

So Mazzochi pulled almost every item off the consent agenda, the section of the meeting reserved for items considered routine and noncontroversial.

By the time other trustees were done pulling items, there was nothing left on the consent agenda.

As a result, a dozen administrators were required to do presentations and answer questions for more than two-and-a-half hours about a list of items, including a contract for copy machines and the purchase of 59 firearms for a shooting range COD is expected to open in August.

Normally, consent agendas are approved within minutes.

Mazzochi said she removed items from the consent agenda because there wasn't sufficient background information in the board packet.

"If someone is saying they put out a request for proposal," she said, "I would like to see the request for proposal that went out."

During the discussion about the firearms purchase, board members questioned Tom Brady, associate dean and director of the college's Homeland Security Training Institute, about how price quotes were sought for the $31,213 expenditure.

Mazzochi asked Brady why the college's request included specific gun brand names -- Glock, Colt, and Smith and Wesson -- instead of gun calibers.

Brady said he and other college officials identified specific types of guns because those are the ones mostly commonly used by law enforcement agencies that are expected to train at the new facility.

Napolitano said if the college is asking for a specific brand, its request should also say "or equivalent."

"M4s are very standard from manufacturer to manufacturer," he said. "There's over 20 manufacturers who make M4s. They're almost identical from brand to brand."

The board narrowly approved the purchase, with Mazzochi, Napolitano and Birt voting against it.

Mazzochi said she hopes the administration provides more detailed information about items in future board packets. "If we want to have shorter board meetings, we'll get to that point," she said.

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