Issues at College of DuPage are not bickering but matters of trust

  • Dianne McGuire

    Dianne McGuire

 
By Dianne McGuire
Guest Columnist
Posted1/14/2016 1:00 AM

This is an Open Letter to the District 502 Community:

Since my election in 2011 to the College of DuPage Board of Trustees, I have learned many things, not the least of which is it's never as simple as it appears to be.

 

In 1981, Dr. Robert Breuder was the youngest person to ever serve as a community college president in the nation when he first began his administrative career in Pennsylvania at just 36 years of age.

His accomplishments over his three-plus decades as a college president were not without complaints, including a few of my own. But, in the aggregate, he succeeded admirably. Under his leadership, enrollment at COD grew, the campus evolved as a beautiful presence for the 21st century and Foundation support provided to many students allowed them to access a world-class education.

The severance agreement we reached with him in 2014 provided us with an opportunity for an orderly leadership transition from Dr. Breuder to a new president.

What the so-called "Clean Slate" did in its obsession to "claw back" Dr. Breuder's severance was to try to void a valid contract. It is my opinion that this will never withstand the court challenge. Dr. Breuder's severance now pales in comparison to the reckless spending of almost $4 million in eight short months.

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With regard to the firings of the controller and CFO, we have yet another example of a vendetta taking root. The fact that we were out of compliance with the college's investment policy for several months went unnoticed by the board, including then-Vice Chair Kathy Hamilton. The investment loss to COD resulting from the fraud which impacted the Illinois Municipal Investment Fund (IMET) was blown completely out of proportion. Should the CFO and the controller have been fired? I never agreed with that action and said so. Corrections should have been made and the investment policy should be revised now.

Now, let's consider the political hires we have seen in the past eight months. The law firms of Rathje & Woodward and Schuyler, Roche & Crisham were hired without notice to fellow board members by the incoming chair and her "Clean Slate."

In the case of the former, Timothy Elliott of Rathje & Woodward was suing the college just weeks before the election on behalf of the Edgar County Watchdogs and For the Good of Illinois organizations, groups extremely hostile to the administration and then-current Board of Trustees of COD, three of whom still remain. Dan Kinsella, of Schuyler, Roche & Crisham, was the former chair's personal attorney for a period of time.

Neither attorney came with any higher education legal experience. They should be replaced by a firm we can all trust, one with a background and expertise in higher education and without personal and political ties to the college or board members.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Political hiring was not limited to the college's attorneys. Chris Robling, a part-time, temporary administrator whose employment was mandated by Hamilton and whose name appeared over 100 times in legal invoices, exerted an undue influence over board and college matters. The lobbyist we hired, John Nicolay, had a previous relationship with former chair Hamilton. Thereafter, there was an attempt to hire an unbiased, neutral hearing officer in the cases of two fired employees. Though he left before any hearings were scheduled, the person we initially hired for the work was Joseph Morris, who actually had a 20-year relationship with Robling. And now we have the latest political appointment: presidential search firm, William E. Hay & Co., a firm with absolutely no educational credentials and one which most of the search committee members questioned. But what they did have was a personal and professional relationship to, once again, Robling.

So, what is it I am asking for? Simply one thing: an end to patronage hiring. It's as simple as that. We need to work together to find law firms, a lobbyist and a search firm we can all trust.

Once that is established, we can begin to work together. Please do not describe these differences as "bickering." They are fundamentally about fairness, justice, transparency and appropriate expertise.

Dianne McGuire is a member of the Board of Trustees of College of DuPage.

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