3 College of DuPage trustees who boycotted last week, now want special meeting
The three College of DuPage trustees who boycotted a board meeting last week to protest, among other things, lack of input in creating the agenda, now have called for a special meeting on Jan. 7 with an agenda they compiled on their own.
In a letter to acting interim President Joseph Collins dated Tuesday, Trustees Dianne McGuire, Erin Birt and Joseph Wozniak submitted their proposed agenda and asked him to forward it to the three other trustees and to post it on the college's website and in campus buildings.
COD spokesman Joseph Moore said the Illinois Public Community College Act allows special meetings to be called by any three members of the board. He said the agenda for the special meeting likely will be officially posted on Wednesday.
In a written statement, McGuire said the three trustees are calling the meeting "to address the serious issues which stand in the way of our coming together and moving forward with a positive agenda for the college."
"We have been outspoken from the beginning of the (Kathy) Hamilton Era regarding the employment of law firms, lobbyists, a special assistant to the president, a hearing officer ... and now, most recently, a presidential search firm, all with political and/or personal connections to former Chairwoman Hamilton or Chris Robling, the 'temporary, part-time special assistant to the president' whose employment was mandated by former Chair Hamilton," McGuire wrote.
"Not one of these firms or individuals had/has any expertise in the realm of higher education," she said. "Their continued presence, in some cases, is a divisive factor for this board and must be addressed before we can move forward."
McGuire's call for a special meeting comes a week after COD, the state's largest-community college, was put on two years probation by the Higher Learning Commission for a variety of concerns, including the inability of board members to work together.
The proposed agenda also calls for a reorganizational meeting in the wake of Hamilton's Dec. 13 resignation. That resignation left a hole on the bitterly divided board and eliminated the four-person majority that Hamilton and her allies, Deanne Mazzochi, Charles Bernstein and Frank Napolitano, had created after last spring's election.
In boycotting last week's meeting -- and preventing any business from being done because of the lack of a quorum -- McGuire, Birt and Wozniak said they wanted to elect a new chairman before moving forward.
The three also said they want to restart the search for a new college president to replace Robert Breuder, who was fired in October, and to revisit the continued employment of three attorneys. Items concerning each of those issues also are on their proposed agenda.
McGuire has complained that COD paid the three law firms nearly $2.2 million between May and November. But Mazzochi, who served as the board's vice chairwoman during Hamilton's eight-month tenure, said last week that the legal fees are the result of "external audits and grand jury investigations beyond our control."
Mazzochi, who has been serving as vice chairwoman of the board, said she didn't become aware of the Jan. 7 meeting until Tuesday afternoon. She said she will follow normal protocol and review the proposed agenda with the college's legal counsel and administration.
"I'm glad trustees McGuire, Birt and Wozniak finally recognize the public wants the college's work done," Mazzochi said.
She said the proposed agenda includes some items that McGuire acknowledged last week were almost certain to fail.
"We should be looking to identify ways we can have productive conversations on behalf of the college," Mazzochi said.
The only proposals likely to be approved on the Jan. 7 agenda, she said, are the same ones that would have been approved if all six board members had attended the December meeting.
Mazzochi said she also hopes the board will discuss cost-cutting measures she proposed last week. One is hiring in-house counsel who would be supervised by the college president and have a "direct report line" to the board. Another is the hiring of an interim chief financial officer and comptroller to do work currently being done by an outside firm.
"I'm always open to having discussions on various issues," she said, "so I guess we'll have one."
McGuire said the Jan. 7 session "will help us to move forward; to remove the roadblocks that stand in the way of collaboration and cooperation."
"Had Vice Chair Mazzochi listened to three trustees -- half of the board -- and placed just a few items on the agenda, we could have met last week. Vice Chair Mazzochi had an opportunity to rise above partisanship and show good faith in working with all trustees."
McGuire said the items on the Jan. 7 agenda "make sense."
"At this time, the board needs a chairperson who can unite the whole board," she wrote. " The various items on the agenda we have will put an end to the hiring of professionals without the experience and expertise necessary to work in the field of higher education and who were hired because of who they knew."