2 fired COD administrators drop appeals, expected to sue
Two recently fired College of DuPage administrators have abandoned plans to appeal their terminations, at least partly because they say the school's board of trustees is too biased to fairly consider their case.
Thomas J. Glaser and Lynn Sapyta are instead expected to file federal lawsuits against the state's largest community college.
A COD spokesman declined to comment on Friday, saying the school doesn't discuss personnel matters.
Glaser and Sapyta were fired last month by COD's acting interim President Joseph Collins for what Collins said was a failure to protect the financial integrity of the Glen Ellyn-based school. Glaser served as senior vice president of administration and treasurer, and Sapyta was assistant vice president of financial affairs and controller.
Glaser and Sapyta initially sought to appeal their firings at a hearing that would be overseen by an independent hearing officer -- although the final decision would rest with the seven members of the elected board of trustees.
Four of those members -- Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton and trustees Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein -- have made it clear they supported the firings.
The first hearing officer withdrew before the process began. COD trustees then appointed retired federal Judge David Coar to serve in that role.
But in a letter dated Thursday, the attorneys for the administrators -- Shelly B. Kulwin for Glaser and Peter S. Lubin for Sapyta -- said Judge Coar's appointment is "insufficient" to ensure a fair appeal process for their clients.
That's because Coar would only conduct the hearing, according to COD's policy, and the board still would serve as judge in both cases.
"If the case is heard by a hearing officer, a written summary and tape recording of the hearing will be submitted to the board for deliberation and decision in closed session," the policy reads.
The attorneys for both administrators said having trustees rule on their clients' appeals would be unfair.
"A majority of the board has prejudged the matter and is incapable of rendering a decision that comports with due process," Kulwin and Lubin wrote in their letter. "Consequently, if the board is allowed to 'decide' Mr. Glaser's and Ms. Sapyta's fates, they will simply ignore or misstate the evidence to arrive at a predetermined conclusion and completely nullify the role of an impartial hearing officer."
The attorneys also said it would be inappropriate for board members to serve as judges since they may be called as witnesses.
Glaser and Sapyta were among three high-ranking COD administrators -- President Robert Breuder is the other -- put on leave after Mazzochi, Napolitano and Bernstein were elected in April and Hamilton became chairwoman.
Breuder was put on leave in April; Sapyta and Glaser followed in June after an audit revealed the college lost $2.2 million in what was described as a risky investment fund.
The board majority has started termination proceedings against Breuder as part of what it says are sweeping reforms in the midst of federal and state investigations into the administrative and financial practices at COD.
About a month after being placed on leave, Sapyta and Glaser received a letter from Collins listing the complaints against them.
Kulwin, Glaser's attorney, has called the complaints "vague, unsubstantiated, and/or insufficient to support termination."
Lubin, who represents Sapyta, has said his client is being wrongly blamed for questions about the school's investments and past problems at the COD radio station and the Waterleaf restaurant, which was closed recently after losing almost $2.2 million in a four-year span.
Glaser and Sapyta sought to have their appeals be heard at the same time. But their attorneys say the school opposed that request.
"The college's insistence on separate hearings is further evidence that the college is more interested in imposing punitive legal fees and costs on them than in providing a fair hearing," Kulwin and Lubin wrote.
Glaser and Sapyta each had contracts that were scheduled to run through June 2017, and they both received contract extensions in February.
Glaser, who started at COD in May 2009, was paid $232,112 a year. A five-year COD administrator, Sapyta was paid $163,828 a year.