College of DuPage-inspired reform stalls over disagreement on severance packages

  • Laws aimed at College of DuPage President Dr. Robert Breuder's severance package could stall.

      Laws aimed at College of DuPage President Dr. Robert Breuder's severance package could stall. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

A disagreement between lawmakers and state community college presidents could halt reforms inspired by the College of DuPage's $762,868 buyout package offered to President Robert Breuder earlier this year.

The proposal would ensure severance packages do not exceed one year's salary and applicable benefits. It would also limit community college employees' initial contracts to three years.

But the state community college leaders told a Senate committee Thursday the contract limits would foster more turnover in the running of community colleges and lead to less stability.

"We oppose this strongly," Illinois Council of Community College Presidents director Liz Brown said. "The community college this bill is addressing is one (school), and I think this is reactionary legislation for one bad apple."

The proposal's Senate sponsor Sen. Michael Connelly, a Lisle Republican, argued that isolated incidents like the COD buyout generate legislative proposals all the time.

"My goodness, a week doesn't go by in this building where someone doesn't begin their discussion on the floor about an isolated incident that has caused the General Assembly member to bring forth legislation," Connelly said.

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Connelly says the buyout "was insulting not just to taxpayers of the College of DuPage but certainly taxpayers in the state of Illinois" because the severance package was not publicly debated or publicly voted on.

And Connelly says he believes three years is sufficient time for both the college employee and the board to determine if that individual should remain in the position.

The bill was already approved by the House, but might not go further in the Senate as Connelly and others try to address Brown's concerns. If they succeed, lawmakers could try to send the plan to Rauner by Sunday.

Senate Democrats pushed for a vote on the plan after releasing a scathing report on college presidents' salaries and perks. The Senate committee talked about pushing additional hearings into the summer to talk about the issue more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This legislation joins other proposals that aim to hold COD more accountable after the controversial buyout.

Lawmakers also are urging COD to send trustees to professional board development training and establish a finance committee.

Rep. Deb Conroy, a Villa Park Democrat, passed that proposal through a House committee Wednesday. She says this will help hold COD accountable and give trustees the necessary training they need to do their job.

"We have a new board, and I think that we need the board to be a professional board," Conroy said. "They come from all walks of life, and there is something to be learned with professional board training."

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