State's attorney wants College of DuPage closed session records

  • DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin is asking the College of DuPage board for records of closed sessions almost two years ago.

    DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin is asking the College of DuPage board for records of closed sessions almost two years ago.

 
 
Updated 1/12/2016 6:57 PM

DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin is asking the College of DuPage board to turn over records likely related to the contract renewal nearly two years ago of former President Robert Breuder.

According to a memo sent to college officials Monday from Berlin's office, prosecutors are seeking "a copy of the minutes and verbatim record of any and all closed meetings of the board of trustees which occurred during the months of February and March 2014."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Paul Darrah, spokesman for Berlin's office, would not speculate as to what prosecutors may find in the minutes.

"We received a request to look into those meetings, and that's what we're doing right now," Darrah said. "We're just looking to see what transpired at those meetings."

According to a federal wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Breuder, former board chairwoman Erin Birt told him on March 7, 2014, that the majority of the board had extended his contract through 2019.

Just a day earlier, the board met in executive session, but there are no public records or notice of a vote being taken that night.

It later was revealed that Breuder in April 2014 expressed an interest in retiring in March 2016. He and the board then spent nine months discussing the terms and conditions of his planned departure.

In January 2015, the board approved a $762,868 buyout package for Breuder that sparked a firestorm of controversy and helped three new trustees -- Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein -- get elected in the spring.

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After months of friction, the new board in October fired Breuder, which led to him filing the federal lawsuit against Mazzochi, Napolitano, Bernstein and former COD Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton.

Darrah said Tuesday there is no timetable for any investigation by the state's attorney's office because officials don't yet know what, if any, evidence they will find of any wrongdoing.

According to an agenda posted Tuesday afternoon, the board is expected to vote during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to release the documents and recordings to Berlin's office. The regularly scheduled meeting will follow at 7 p.m.

"We will discuss that issue at 6:30 p.m., because we cannot put urgent college business on hold," said Mazzochi, who serves as the board's vice chairwoman. "I want to hear each trustee's position Thursday on whether they agree the college should comply with the state's attorney's office request."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Last week, when the board also posted two meetings, Trustees Dianne McGuire, Erin Birt and Joseph Wozniak -- three holdovers from the old board -- boycotted both meetings over a dispute about the agenda.

McGuire, reached Tuesday afternoon, said she was unsure whether the group would attend either of Thursday's meetings.

Should COD trustees refuse to turn over the closed-session material, Darrah said the state's attorney's office has no legal recourse to force them to do so.

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