COD trustee says she could be fifth vote needed to fire Breuder

 
 
Updated 8/20/2015 8:32 AM
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  • Dianne McGuire

    Dianne McGuire

  • Joseph C. Wozniak

    Joseph C. Wozniak

  • Erin Birt

    Erin Birt

College of DuPage Trustee Dianne McGuire says she would consider casting the fifth vote that may be needed to fire school President Robert Breuder if she's presented with "compelling and valid legal evidence" supporting termination for cause.

So far, however, McGuire said she hasn't seen that evidence.

That might change tonight when trustees at the state's largest community college are expected to decide whether to begin termination proceedings against Breuder.

"It's hard for me to believe they've found anything," McGuire said Wednesday. "But if they've got something new I don't know about ... that's what it would take for me to change my mind."

McGuire is referring to internal investigations the Glen Ellyn-based college launched in May after Breuder was put on paid administrative leave by a new majority elected to the board a month earlier amid a public furor over a nearly $763,000 severance agreement the old board approved. The school also is the subject of state and federal probes into its financial and administrative practices.

At least four members of the seven-member board -- Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton and trustees Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein -- have expressed a strong desire to fire Breuder. But until now there have been questions whether they have legal cause to oust him before his planned retirement in March 2016.

On Tuesday, however, Hamilton said the results of the college's internal investigations led her to propose that termination proceedings begin against Breuder.

Hamilton has not publicly disclosed those findings, and at least some board members appear uncertain about what, if anything, the probes found.

Some of that may be made clear -- at least to elected officials -- when the board meets at 5 p.m. today in what's scheduled to be a two-hour closed session.

If trustees emerge from behind closed doors and vote to authorize termination proceedings, there would be hearings and Breuder would be given the opportunity to challenge the firing -- a process that could take months.

It's believed a vote to begin the termination process would require a simple majority of four votes.

But according to the terms of his contract, a final vote to fire him would require votes from five of the seven board members.

That means at least one minority board member would need to side with Hamilton and three other trustees who want Breuder gone. That vote would have to come from McGuire, Erin Birt or Joseph Wozniak.

On Wednesday, Wozniak said he won't vote to fire Breuder under any circumstances.

Breuder already has been banned from campus and has no influence on the school's operation, Wozniak said. To fire him now would be "the wrong thing to do."

Wozniak said he's worried Breuder will sue the college if he's fired.

"If he wins -- and I fully expect him to -- that's going to cost the college a lot more money than his buyout," Wozniak said.

Birt could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, McGuire said she's hoping to learn during Thursday's executive session what's been uncovered by the school's internal probes.

"I would have to consider it (voting to terminate Breuder) if the investigations provide a valid legal basis," she said.

The board won't need five votes to fire Breuder if a judge rules that the president's initial contract, approved in 2008, and subsequent extensions were illegally approved.

That's why the board tonight is expected to vote on a measure calling on the DuPage County state's attorney's office to enforce a recent nonbinding opinion by the Illinois attorney general's office. It said 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 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.

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