Watchdogs call for probe into all of Breuder's College of DuPage contracts
Ex-chairman, though, says that's the way it's been done since 1994
Several government watchdog groups Thursday called on the DuPage County State's Attorney's office to investigate whether any or all of the contracts College of DuPage President Robert Breuder received during his tenure were approved improperly.
But David Carlin, who was chairman of the COD board that extended Breuder's contract in 2011, said that COD presidents have had automatic rollover provisions within their contracts since at least 1994. The contracts for Breuder and two previous presidents were automatically annually extended for an additional year unless trustees acted to terminate the pacts.
"The board of trustees did not provide Dr. Breuder with written notice of intent to terminate in 2011, so under the terms of Dr. Breuder's contract his contract automatically rolled over for an additional year," Carlin wrote in an email.
The watchdogs' demand came in the wake of an opinion issued last week by the Illinois Attorney General's office that found COD's board of trustees violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act when it adopted a third extension to Breuder's employment contract on July 12, 2011.
The board violated the act, the attorney general's office said, because it failed to provide sufficient advance notice and failed to publicly provide information concerning the extension before its approval.
That legal opinion is important because it could pave the way for the current COD board majority to try to terminate Breuder before he's scheduled to step down in March 2016 and collect a nearly $763,000 buyout package.
But Carlin added that the public vote referenced in the attorney general's nonbinding opinion was neither required under the terms of Breuder's contract nor the Open Meetings Act because Breuder's original deal contained the automatic rollover provision. He said the November 2008 vote to hire Breuder was done "in accordance with the Open Meetings Act."
Officials with OpenTheBooks.com, the Edgar County Watchdogs and For The Good of Illinois strongly disagree. They are questioning the legality of all the actions related to Breuder's contracts.
Paul Darrah, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, would not comment on the call for an investigation. He said officials are aware of the attorney general's opinion and "are reviewing all our potential options."
Adam Andrzejewski of OpenTheBooks.com said there were potential Open Meetings Act violations each time the COD board acted on Breuder's contract, from the board's first vote on such a pact in 2008 through all the extensions that followed.
"The attorney general's letter of determination ... is a starting point," Andrzejewski said. "There's seven actions of that board related to Breuder's contracts right from the beginning that need to be investigated by the state's attorney."
Andrzejewski dropped off 124 pages of documents at State's Attorney Bob Berlin's office in Wheaton. He said the documents "raise real questions" about each action taken related to Breuder's employment with COD.
"The students, taxpayers and citizens deserve clarity on whether or not over $4 million of compensation flowing to Dr. Robert Breuder between the years of 2009 and 2016 is in fact legal," Andrzejewski said.
In the meantime, COD's attorneys already have been instructed to review all legal options as a result of the nonbinding letter from the attorney general's office. Trustees were expected to get an update Thursday night during a closed session.
COD board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said earlier this week that the attorney general's opinion "validates our worst concerns about COD in the Breuder era."
Andrzejewski, meanwhile, said Berlin is the only one who has the power to prosecute the case and take it to a judge for a ruling.
If a judge were to invalidate Breuder's employee contract because of an Open Meetings Act violation, it would make it easier for college trustees to terminate him, Andrzejewski said.
Breuder, now on paid leave, is scheduled to get a $762,867 buyout package when he steps down on March 31, 2016 -- an arrangement that has drawn the ire of some residents, faculty members and state lawmakers. Breuder is paid a base salary of $292,739 a year, but other benefits bring his total compensation package to $495,092.