COD board to consider firing Breuder

  • The College of DuPage Board could begin termination proceedings Thursday against President Robert Breuder

    The College of DuPage Board could begin termination proceedings Thursday against President Robert Breuder

 
 

College of DuPage trustees are poised to begin the process of firing embattled President Robert Breuder, an effort that could start Thursday but may take months, officials said Tuesday.

A final vote to fire Breuder for cause, however, would require support from at least five of the seven board members, according to the terms of his contract. He also must be given 45 days to fix the problems raised by the board.

Breuder was put on paid administrative leave at the end of April after a new majority was elected to the board amid a public furor over a $762,867 severance agreement the old board approved for him.

Since that time, the Glen Ellyn-based school -- the largest community college in the state -- has been subject to state and federal investigations as well as internal probes into questions about its finances and administrative practices.

"COD's president has been on administrative leave pending the results of our investigations," board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said Tuesday in a written statement. "The investigations have resulted in this proposed action for board consideration."

Hamilton, who long has called for Breuder's ouster, declined to elaborate when reached by phone.

"We are not commenting on anything regarding this topic," she said. "It's a personnel matter; it's a very serious matter."

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Breuder could not be reached for comment.

The Thursday board meeting is scheduled to begin with a two-hour executive session at 5 p.m. The public meeting will begin about 7 p.m., according to an agenda posted Tuesday. It includes the "authorization to initiate termination proceedings" against Breuder.

If the board votes to authorize the action, Breuder will be notified of the bid to terminate his employment. There also will be hearings and Breuder will be given the opportunity to challenge the firing.

If it comes to a final vote, though, at least one minority board member will have to side with Hamilton and three other trustees who want Breuder gone. That fifth vote would have to come from among veteran board members Erin Birt, Dianne McGuire or Joseph Wozniak.

Attempts to reach Birt and McGuire were unsuccessful Tuesday, but Wozniak said he would oppose any effort to fire Breuder.

"I don't think it's a good idea," he said. "It looks like they just don't want to pay him (the buyout amount)."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He said he's concerned that if Breuder is fired he will file a lawsuit against the college that ultimately could cost taxpayers more money than the buyout.

But Trustee Charles Bernstein, a Hamilton ally along with Frank Napolitano and Deanne Mazzochi, said Breuder's employment status is an issue that needs to be addressed by the board. "We will be doing that on Thursday," he said.

Bernstein said he isn't aware of what's been uncovered during the ongoing internal probes of Breuder and his administration.

"If the investigations support termination, I will absolutely be for terminating for cause," he said. "If there's cause, then he needs to be terminated for cause."

Napolitano declined to comment Tuesday and Mazzochi could not be reached.

Among the questions swirling around Breuder are some involving whether his initial contract and subsequent extensions were illegally approved and whether the severance deal can be undone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That procedure appears to come up on Thursday's agenda, too, under a "Request that DuPage County State's Attorney Pursue Enforcement of Attorney General's Opinion."

The Illinois Attorney General's office said in a nonbinding opinion that the COD board failed to properly inform the public in 2011 that it was voting on a contract extension for Breuder.

However, others have noted that extensions of Breuder's contract were no different from what was done for prior college presidents, dating back to the 1990s.

COD spokesman Randall Samborn on Tuesday declined to talk about what could happen to the buyout deal if Breuder eventually is fired.

"We're not at that point yet," Samborn said. "I am not going to speculate about what could happen months down the road."

Bernstein, however, said he hopes that "when we terminate for cause, that the buyout will no longer be operable."

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