COD board to vote on voiding Breuder's contract, renaming building
The College of DuPage board of trustees will vote Thursday to void President Robert Breuder's employment contract and at the same time avoid placing his name on the school's Homeland Security Education Center.
The board's action to undo Breuder's original contract, agreed upon in 2008, also includes voiding all subsequent contract extensions and addendums -- including the controversial $763,000 severance package approved in January by a previous board.
Trustees will also take a vote to name the Homeland Security Education Center in honor of late U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, a former Wheaton resident and Medal of Honor recipient. The buyout agreement included the provision that the building would be named for Breuder upon his retirement as long as he maintained "conduct that is not materially detrimental to the reputation of the board and/or the college."
The board's action Thursday comes days after a decision by DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin not to prosecute a violation of the open meetings act by the COD board in July 2011, when it approved one of Breuder's contract extensions. Berlin said the "admonishment" by the Illinois attorney general's office was a sufficient sanction.
Board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton and COD spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment, but in the board packet released Tuesday afternoon, college officials wrote Breuder's contract and all amendments and addendums exceeded the authority of previous boards.
"Because its members are elected on a staggered basis, each iteration of the board has a 'term' of only two years. No board may bind future boards by entering into employment agreements with individuals in positions such as Dr. Breuder's that extend beyond that board's term," officials wrote in the board packet. "In the absence of a valid employment contract extending until 2019, the board had no basis and no power to award the severance package to Dr. Breuder."
Hamilton's three political allies were swept to election in April amid public outcry over the buyout deal the old board gave Breuder. Hamilton said during the election they hoped to claw back the buyout and believed Breuder should be dismissed for cause.
Last month, the board voted to initiate termination proceedings against Breuder -- a process that could take months.
COD has been the subject of state and federal investigations as well as internal probes into its financial and administrative practices. Media reports have raised questions about, among other things, no-bid contracts for insiders and administrators dining at COD's upscale Waterleaf restaurant.
Breuder, who is on both administrative and medical leave, is scheduled to formally retire next March.
The board's action Thursday also would make Breuder an "at-will" employee of the college without a contract -- potentially paving the way to Breuder's ultimate firing.
His contract contains a clause that requires five votes of the seven-member board to dismiss him for cause, though that would require a fifth vote from one of Hamilton's opponents. Without a contract, it's possible a simple majority vote is all that would be needed.
Even still, Hamilton said during an interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board in March that state law would supersede any contract and require only a simple majority.
Asked at the time about the possibility that an attempt to oust Breuder without pay could provoke a lawsuit, Hamilton said, "Let him sue us."
"You have to stand for something," she said, "and I would like to see him defend this (financial) record."
Along with Breuder's controversial $763,000 buyout came the assurance the Homeland Security Education Center would be named after Breuder. But critics, including State Rep. Jeanne Ives, said the building should be named in honor of Miller, who was killed in 2008 during combat in Afghanistan. Miller was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2010 for helping save fellow soldiers while they were under attack by insurgents.
"When we name a building after somebody, it causes people to find out why it's named for that person. The more people that see what he stood for, youth will aspire to that ideal of heroism and service," Ives said. "That's why it's appropriate he receives this honor instead of some self-serving bureaucrat like Breuder."
If the naming is approved, the board will direct the COD administration to place Miller's name on the building and plan a permanent installation in the building lobby that presents Miller's official citation and President Barack Obama's remarks on awarding him the Medal of Honor.
• Daily Herald staff writer Robert Sanchez contributed to this report.