2 COD trustees say they can't get information needed to do job
Two College of DuPage trustees who say they're being blocked from asking questions and denied access to records have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with their own school.
Trustees Erin Birt and Dianne McGuire said Wednesday they filed identical FOIA requests within the past week seeking months of financial records, invoices for legal services and letters and emails from the board's attorneys. They said they also are seeking information about ongoing internal investigations at the Glen Ellyn-based school.
Officials at the state's largest community college said the trustees will get a response to their FOIA requests today but stressed that neither has been denied information. Board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton also insists that nothing is being withheld from Birt and McGuire.
In a FOIA request submitted July 23, Birt wrote that as a trustee she is "entitled to information about operations and decisions so that I can perform my fiduciary duty to oversee the college. Since April 30, 2015, the amount, quality and timeliness of information provided to the board of trustees has diminished to an unacceptable level."
In that request, she seeks all correspondence from April 27 to the present involving three top administrators who have been placed on paid leave: President Robert Breuder, Senior Vice President of Administration Thomas Glaser and Assistant Vice President of Financial Affairs Lynn Sapyta.
She also seeks any legal memorandums and/or work product prepared by COD attorneys pertaining to decisions to place Breuder, Glaser and Sapyta on administrative leave "and their pending termination proceedings, including but not limited to the legal (basis) for the administrative leaves, the (basis) for termination and legal liability to the college arising out of the same."
In addition, Birt's FOIA request seeks documents, interim reports and investigative strategies related to and arising out of the internal investigations authorized by the board.
On Monday, Birt submitted a second FOIA request asking for a variety of financial records.
In that request, she tells COD's acting interim President Joe Collins that "trustees have not received any financial reports since April 30 -- nearly 90 days and a whole fiscal quarter. It is for this reason that I am now compelled to demand information through formal requests."
April 30 marks the date when three new members were seated on the COD board of trustees, forming a new majority and electing Hamilton as chairwoman.
Hamilton and the new majority also agreed to hire attorneys to do internal probes of the school's policies, personnel, practices and finances.
Breuder was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations. Glaser and Sapyta were placed on leave in June amid questions involving their investment practices.
"We can't get any information about what's going on," Birt said Wednesday. "So we felt compelled to have to require that they provide us with information."
But Hamilton called Birt's assertion "absurd."
"No one is blocking them from speaking to staff or getting documents," she said Wednesday in a statement.
Contacted by phone, Hamilton said she's reached out many times to Birt and McGuire.
"They have not really responded to me," said Hamilton, adding that Birt prevented her from getting information when Birt was the board's chairwoman and Hamilton was part of the board minority.
Collins, meanwhile, said he talked about a month ago to both Birt and McGuire about their concerns.
"What I suggested to Erin and Dianne is that it's a board issue," Collins said. "The board needs to work that out for themselves in terms of how they would like to communicate with each other."
Birt said Collins told her he's limited in what he can communicate to the full board.
"He indicated that he works only at the direction of Kathy Hamilton and, therefore, claims that he is prohibited from communicating with the full board," Birt said.
In an email reply to the most recent FOIA, Collins wrote to both Birt and McGuire on Monday afternoon to inform them the school had received their requests.
"I wonder if there is a better approach we can use to get you this information," he wrote in an email. "The FOIA process is very burdensome for the staff and as trustees you have additional access that others may not have."
In that email, he suggests Birt and McGuire discuss their FOIA requests and the college's responses in a closed session when the board meets tonight.
"If you are not satisfied with how we decide to proceed at that meeting," Collins wrote, "then we can move forward with the FOIA response as we would for any citizen."
Birt said she and McGuire still want the documents.
"Just to orally tell us what's going on at the college doesn't seem to be adequate anymore," she said.