No COD quorum again; trustees plead to state board
For the third straight time, three College of DuPage trustees were no-shows on a meeting night.
Two of the trustees -- Dianne McGuire and Erin Birt -- also wrote the chairman of the Illinois Community College Board to say they think he will have to fill the seventh trustee position because the evenly divided COD board will not be able to agree on a candidate.
The decision by McGuire, Birt and Joseph Wozniak to skip two back-to-back meetings Thursday night -- including a session they scheduled -- left the three other members of the panel calling for their colleagues to return to work. The board has been divided 3-3 since last month's resignation of former board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton.
"I really don't want the three trustees who are not here tonight to think this is a point of no return," board Vice Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi said. "I understand it might be uncomfortable. I understand that you might be feeling emotional about this. But you know, you really can be here and get the job done."
Mazzochi and the two other trustees who showed up Thursday night -- Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein -- said they are willing to let the absent trustees sit wherever they feel comfortable in the meeting room the next time they show up. They also offered to let the absent trustees attend via a phone conference.
Earlier, McGuire issued a written statement blaming Mazzochi for why she, Birt and Wozniak canceled the meeting they had planned for 7 p.m.
McGuire accused Mazzochi of "dirty political games" because she, Napolitano and Bernstein organized the other special session for 6:30 p.m.
The agenda for the first meeting had only one action item: a vote to give DuPage County prosecutors records they've requested of closed sessions dating back to 2014. Mazzochi said another meeting was necessary because McGuire refused to allow the item to be added to the agenda for the 7 p.m. session.
Still, McGuire said she believes the 6:30 p.m. session "undermined" the meeting she, Birt and Wozniak scheduled.
"For the second time in a week, she has scheduled a meeting immediately before our previously set meeting," McGuire wrote. She said she's worried Mazzochi would "interfere" with the 7 p.m. meeting.
But Bernstein said Mazzochi hasn't played any political games.
"I would like someone to explain to me how calling a meeting at 6:30 (p.m.) to include an agenda item that we were not allowed to include in the agenda for 7 o'clock is -- in any way -- interfering with three trustees' right to call a special meeting," Bernstein said.
Mazzochi apologized to everyone affected by the board's inaction, including students, faculty, staff members and service providers.
She warned that under the Illinois Prompt Pay Act the college could face thousands of dollars in penalties from vendors because the entire board hasn't met to approve bills.
Mazzochi said that although she doesn't want to inconvenience people, she plans to attend the next regularly scheduled board meeting with Napolitano and Bernstein at 7 p.m. Jan. 21. McGuire, Birt and Wozniak already have stated they will not be attending.
"I really do hope you reconsider," Mazzochi said. "Every meeting is an opportunity for a fresh start and I really, really hope you take it."
Meanwhile, Birt and McGuire sent a letter to Lazaro Lopez, the chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, expressing doubt that the COD board can make any progress on filling Hamilton's former seat.
"It appears necessary for you to appoint a trustee to fill the vacant position on the COD board of trustees," it said.
The letter said McGuire and Birt believe they've been denied access to information and documents from the college during and after Hamilton's tenure as board chairwoman.
"The vacancy has created an even split among the board members that cannot be overcome until the vacancy is filled," the letter said. "We look forward to resuming the college's business upon the appointment of a seventh trustee."
If the six trustees can't fill the open seat on their own by Feb. 11, by law it falls to Lopez to pick the new trustee. The college says 28 people have applied for the post.