With new trustee on board, College of DuPage gridlock to end

  • The board that oversees the College of DuPage is expected to get back to business Thursday night after a new trustee takes his seat on the seven-member panel.

    The board that oversees the College of DuPage is expected to get back to business Thursday night after a new trustee takes his seat on the seven-member panel. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 2/17/2016 4:24 PM

Two months of gridlock on the College of DuPage board are expected to end Thursday night when a seventh trustee is seated to break the 3-3 tie on the bitterly divided panel.

David S. Olsen, the Downers Grove resident appointed to replace former board chairwoman Kathy Hamilton, is scheduled to be sworn in at the start of the meeting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Once Olsen assumes his duties, the board will have a quorum for just the second time since Hamilton unexpectedly resigned in December. Other attempts to meet failed because three trustees -- Erin Birt, Dianne McGuire, and Joseph Wozniak -- boycotted the sessions, saying they didn't want to meet until the board held an organizational session to choose a new chairman.

Olsen was appointed last week by Lazaro Lopez, chairman of the Illinois Community College Board, after COD trustees failed to fill the vacant seat in the required 60 days.

Vice Chairman Deanne Mazzochi said the revamped board plans to deal with several outstanding issues on Thursday, including paying legal fees, reviewing a plan to hire an in-house lawyer, and giving DuPage County prosecutors records they've requested of closed sessions dating to 2014.

"We're going to have a new trustee ... and begin a new chapter for the College of DuPage," Mazzochi said. "We can start moving out some of the old business that's been lingering for the last couple of months."

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Mazzochi said she wants those issues resolved so trustees can focus on addressing issues raised by the Higher Learning Commission, which has placed the Glen Ellyn-based school on two years' probation because of questions concerning its administrative practices and the dysfunction on the board. A discussion about the HLC report is scheduled for Feb. 25.

As for Thursday's meeting, one agenda item deals with DuPage prosecutors' request for records related to the board's decision nearly two years ago to renew the contract of former President Robert Breuder, who has since been fired.

A federal wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Breuder indicates that Birt, who was then chairwoman of the board, told him on March 7, 2014, that the majority of trustees had extended his contract through 2019.

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

A month after getting the contract extension, Breuder expressed 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 get Mazzochi and fellow trustees Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein elected last spring.

After conducting an internal investigation, the new board fired Breuder in October, which led him to file the lawsuit against Mazzochi, Napolitano, Bernstein and Hamilton.

The records request from the state's attorney's office was made in January, but the board never met to decide how to respond because of the boycott.

Mazzochi wants the board to comply as soon as possible to the request. "I certainly think that we want to get any and all legal compliance issues and public officials' requests done and out of the way," she said.

The board also is expected to consider hiring in-house counsel to help the school better manage its legal costs.

If trustees agree, money would be set aside in next year's budget to have the in-house lawyer in place by July 1. The individual would be supervised by the college president and handle certain legal areas such as Freedom of Information Act requests.

Meanwhile, the board is expected to consider legal bills totaling $619,796 for services provided by five law firms between October and January.

In addition, the board is expected to get an update from a panel handling the search for a new president. The COD presidential search committee eventually will recommend three to five finalists for trustees to consider.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Room 2000 of the Student Resource Center.

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