COD's Waterleaf staff averages $2,600 severance
Nineteen employees of the College of DuPage's Waterleaf restaurant will get severances averaging nearly $2,600 when the eatery is closed at the end of the month.
The college will pay a total of $49,232 to the general manager, executive chef, assistant executive chef, administrative assistant, seven members of the wait staff, six members of the kitchen staff, a dishwasher and a bartender, according to college officials.
The restaurant became a focal point in the controversy over outgoing President Robert Breuder, who was criticized for racking up $86,171 at the restaurant on the taxpayers' dime between its opening in 2011 and January 2015.
Breuder got $763,000 in severance when the college's board of trustees wanted him to retire three years early. He was placed on paid administrative leave in April.
Margaret Glenzinski, a part-time line cook at the restaurant and graduate of the college's culinary arts program, called the situation "sad" for her and her co-workers.
"They didn't do any of this," she said. "They feel like they're being punished for what Dr. Breuder did and it's not fair."
Glenzinski said she couldn't get into specifics about her severance deal but called it unexpected since she was part-time.
"But if I were full-time and this was my livelihood like it is for many there, yeah, I would expect something," she said.
The restaurant was created to serve as a learning lab for students in the college's culinary and service programs, but it was only staffed twice a week by students, according to college officials.
College finance officials said the restaurant has lost nearly $2.2 million since it opened less than five years ago.
College spokesman Randall Samborn said the college's "practice" is to give employees whose positions are eliminated "one week's pay for every year of employment and fractions thereof." The board approved the payouts at Thursday's meeting.
The employees' employment history at the college ranges from 10 years and two months for an administrative assistant to 11 months for three other workers, according to college records.
The last day of operation for the restaurant is scheduled for Aug. 30. COD officials said the closing is temporary and the facility will be rebranded to provide more academic opportunities for the college's students.
Samborn said because the payouts are considered "personnel matters" he couldn't say if the employees are forbidden from talking about the severance agreement.
Samborn said the restaurant's employees can apply for other positions on campus but won't be given preferential consideration.
Glenzinski said she would look for restaurant work off campus.
"I had a really good experience there and learned a lot from some great people," she said.