Berlin won't prosecute illegal meeting on Breuder's COD contract
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin will take no action on an illegally convened College of DuPage board meeting four years ago that resulted in a contract extension for President Robert Breuder, who is now on leave.
In an eight-page letter to board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton, Berlin said the "admonishment" by the Illinois attorney general's office that the board was given two months ago for conducting the July 12, 2011, meeting on Breuder's contract was a sufficient sanction.
"Any sanction greater than that would be disproportionate to the violation, and in the case of voidability (of Breuder's contract), grossly disproportionate," Berlin wrote, noting that it's standard practice for boards that violate the Open Meetings Act to be told not to repeat the violation.
Hamilton, in a written statement, said she was disappointed by Berlin's decision.
"It is disappointing that State's Attorney Berlin is refusing to prosecute the violation of the open meetings law found by the Illinois Attorney General's office," she said. "His opinion, however, is limited and does not foreclose other avenues that are being pursued and remain available to relieve the College of DuPage of the restrictions that these contracts placed on the college and its current and future boards."
Earlier this summer, several government watchdog groups called on Berlin to investigate whether any or all of the contracts Breuder received during his tenure were approved improperly. A key issue was an automatic rollover of Breuder's contract each year -- something previous COD boards had done for presidents since the 1990s.
That protest followed the attorney general's opinion that the board failed to provide sufficient advance notice of the action and failed to publicly provide information concerning the extension -- Breuder's third -- before its approval.
Hamilton, who gained the presidency and a majority on the board in the April election, and her supporters recently voted to begin termination proceedings against Breuder, who has a total annual compensation package of $495,000. He has been a lightning rod for what his critics have called his lavish spending at a college-owned restaurant, now closed, and has been criticized for memberships in hunting clubs and other perks. But things came to a head when the board earlier this year approved a $763,000 buyout for him to step down next March, two years before his contract expires.
Berlin wrote a similar letter to Adam Andrzejewski of OpenTheBooks.com, who this summer said there were potential Open Meetings Act violations each time the COD board acted on Breuder's contract, from the board's first vote in 2008 through all the extensions that followed.
Andrzejewski dropped off 124 pages of documents at Berlin's office in Wheaton, saying the documents "raise real questions" about each action taken related to Breuder's employment with COD.
But Berlin noted college board members had no reason to think they were doing anything improper.
"It has been more than four years and with two elections intervening since the board's violation occurred, during which time the third addendum enjoyed, at least until July 24, 2015 (date of the attorney general opinion), a presumption of validity."
Andrzejewski Saturday took issue with Berlin's decision.
"By just publishing a debatable opinion, Bob Berlin disenfranchised every DuPage County property taxpayer, COD tuition-paying student, and the voters in the last college trustee election. The proper forum for this significant legal debate was a courtroom in front of a judge," he said.