College of DuPage trustee: I wasn't pushing for Breuder return
College of DuPage Trustee Dianne McGuire insists she never lobbied a board member from a rival faction to support her in a bid to become chairwoman of the panel in order to undo the firing of former President Robert Breuder.
She does, though, acknowledge a general discussion with Trustee Frank Napolitano about finding ways to cut the school's legal costs.
McGuire said Monday she simply suggested that Breuder be returned to administrative leave and allowed to retire in March, as originally decided, with the board-approved $763,000 severance deal. She said bringing Breuder back to run the college "is simply not an option."
His firing, she said, "is never going to stand up in court."
Otherwise, McGuire added, Napolitano "is just putting stuff out there that I never said."
Napolitano, however, refused to back down. He even sent the Daily Herald a copy of a phone bill showing that he had a 25-minute conversation with someone at McGuire's home phone number on Dec. 16.
"What I quoted in my statement about the conversation on the 16th is absolutely accurate," Napolitano said.
In that statement, made during one of several aborted attempts in the past two months to hold a meeting of the deadlocked board, Napolitano said he spoke to McGuire three days after board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton unexpectedly resigned, creating a 3-3 split among board members.
Since Hamilton stepped down, McGuire and two of her allies on the board -- Erin Birt and Joseph Wozniak -- have refused to attend board meetings, in part because they want to have an organizational meeting to select a new chairman.
Napolitano said McGuire asked on Dec. 16 that he "stand with her" and help her become chairwoman.
"She said she didn't think Erin (Birt) wanted to be chairman, and she said that she would like my support to be chairman," Napolitano said Monday. "And then she listed all these things she wanted to accomplish."
He said that list included overturning the termination of Breuder and two other administrators in order to settle federal lawsuits the three have since filed, seeking millions of dollars in damages.
McGuire said she never asked Napolitano to help her become chairwoman.
And despite the record showing that Napolitano spoke to someone at her home on Dec. 16, McGuire said she doesn't remember talking to him on that day.
She said she did have a conversation with Napolitano on Dec. 3 -- before Hamilton stepped down.
During that discussion, according to McGuire, they talked about ways the college could settle the lawsuit brought by Breuder.
Even though he was set to receive the severance package in March, Breuder was put on administrative leave last April by the board after Napolitano and two of his political allies -- Deanne Mazzochi and Charles Bernstein -- were elected to the panel.
After conducting an internal investigation, the new board fired Breuder in October, which led him to file a federal wrongful termination lawsuit against Napolitano, Mazzochi, Bernstein and Hamilton. Now Breuder is seeking more than $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Napolitano said McGuire wants to undo Breuder's termination and put him "back on administrative leave or on campus."
McGuire said she and Napolitano never talked about the other administrators, Thomas Glaser and Lynn Sapyta, who were fired in the fall.
In early December, Glaser and Sapyta sued the college, Hamilton and acting interim President Joseph Collins, claiming they were wrongfully terminated as payback for opposing Hamilton's political agenda. The lawsuit is seeking various items of relief, including back wages and benefits lost, loss of earning capacity, and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
McGuire and Napolitano do agree on one part of the conversation: She acknowledged she wants the board to fire three law firms that have billed the college for more than $2.4 million between May and December, firms that were hired when the Hamilton board assumed control.
On Monday, Napolitano says it would be a mistake to part ways with the three firms -- Rathje & Woodward, Schiff Hardin and Schuyler, Roche & Crisham -- and to bring back "the very attorneys and law firms, who in my opinion, enabled or participated in the prior board's actions that have come under so much scrutiny."