Report: Top COD officials not told of employee's criminal past at first
High-ranking College of DuPage officials were not immediately made aware of the criminal history of a former part-time employee charged with stealing more than $100,000 from the campus radio station over seven years, according to a report by a Chicago-based law firm hired to conduct an internal probe at the school.
When top administrators were made aware of problems at the station, the report says, they acted quickly to address them.
Members of the Glen Ellyn-based community college's board of trustees Thursday night voted 6-0 to release a redacted 10-page report by Williams, Montgomery & John Ltd., hired by the college in February to conduct an investigation after John Valenta, 65, of Wheaton was charged with felony theft stemming from a portion of his time as a radio engineer at WDCB 90.9-FM.
As part of Thursday's vote, the board waived its attorney-client privilege so the report could be released to the public.
"This board neither endorses nor accepts this report," said board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton. "We are not disparaging it or its authors. We are simply saying it is not our report. We are conducting our own investigation on these matters. It will arrive at its own findings and conclusions. We will act on those findings and conclusions and release as much as we can without incurring liability."
Prosecutors allege that while working at the radio station from June 10, 2006, through Dec. 19, 2013, Valenta billed the college for more than $200,000 from his private company, Broadcast Technologies, including invoices for parts that were never used and labor that was never performed.
Valenta pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Valenta was indicted in 2011 and accused of stealing up to $10,000 from Elmhurst College, where he also worked as a radio engineer. He pleaded guilty in May 2012 and was sentenced to 24 months' probation.
Valenta was on probation when some of the COD thefts occurred, authorities said.
After Valenta's arrest, COD officials issued a statement saying it was "unclear about the nature of the communication between the Elmhurst College and COD police departments in the first six months of 2011."
So school President Robert Breuder hired the outside law firm for the "limited purpose" of reporting to trustees findings stemming from any communications of Valenta's 2011 arrest.
According to the report, Caroline Krause, Elmhurst College's assistant director of campus security, called a COD police department officer in early 2011 to inform COD that Valenta was submitting false invoices. The COD officer said in an interview with internal investigators that he didn't recall the phone calls. Records show he didn't document the calls in the department's computer system, as is normal practice.
Krause told investigators the officer said he looked into the matter but COD had tight "checks and balances" and "it is not happening here," the report said.
Meanwhile, in March 2011, a radio station employee said she told then-station manager Scott Wager about a Daily Herald report on an investigation involving Valenta at Elmhurst College. The report says Wager has given conflicting accounts of whether he was made aware of Valenta's past at Elmhurst College, and whether he told his boss, Chuck Currier, COD's vice president of information technology.
Currier denies being informed, and Wager was not available for an interview with investigators, the report said.
After Wager retired from COD in 2013, new station manager Daniel Bindert did a Google search on Valenta and found a newspaper report on his indictment as a result of theft at Elmhurst College. Bindert also did a search to find that Valenta owned Broadcast Technologies -- information he took to top COD management, the report said.
The report concludes there is no evidence top administrators were made aware of questionable practices at the station when they were first brought to the attention of the station's management.
"There is also no evidence of any senior COD administration official being made aware of a fraud or investigation concerning Valenta at Elmhurst College," the report says. "Indeed, the administration's prompt response to the discovery of irregularities concerning Valenta in December 2013 is strong support for this conclusion."
When administrators were made aware of Valenta's background, the report says, senior officials came together to "address and investigate Valenta's apparent fraud." Valenta was suspended during that investigation and resigned on Feb. 7, 2014.
He was first was hired by COD in April 1978, resigned in July of that year, then was rehired in November 1979.
Valenta, who is free after posting 10 percent of his $400,000 bail, is next scheduled to appear before Judge Liam Brennan at 9 a.m. Aug. 3 in courtroom 4010.