Chicago Tribune: A chance for change at College of DuPage

March 27, 2015 04:40 AM
Original Article, click here.
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Chicago Tribune

 

The Chicago Tribune has spilled considerable ink reporting on the expensive failings of the administration and trustees at the College of DuPage.

The board in January approved a whopping $763,000 buyout for President Robert Breuder, who will retire next year, three years before his contract was set to expire. Breuder’s compensation this year is $484,812, including housing, car and professional development allowances. The college has paid $26,000 over the past five years for his membership at a private hunting and fishing club.

Breuder and other senior managers spent $190,000 on nearly 500 visits to Waterleaf, an upscale campus restaurant with an exclusive wine cellar, since it opened under Breuder’s direction in 2011. Who picked up the tab? The meals were paid through an account funded largely by state and local taxes and tuition payments.

Last summer, board member Kathy Hamilton was formally censured by other board members because she spoke out against spending decisions made by the board and college president.

Then-Gov. Pat Quinn rescinded a $20 million grant offer to the school last year after the government watchdog group For the Good of Illinois revealed a tacky internal effort directed by Breuder to find some — any — justification for the grant money.

An engineer at the campus radio station was charged last month with felony theft, accused of stealing more than $200,000 from the station. Whew. Now, residents of the community college district, which covers DuPage and parts of Cook County, get a chance to weigh in. Three seats on the COD board are up for election April 7. Early voting began Monday.

We don’t make endorsements in suburban municipal and school board races because there are so many in our readership area — more than 100 in suburban Cook County alone. We’re not going to endorse in the COD election. We do, though, want to help voters get a sense of the landscape.

There are 12 candidates running for the board, including two incumbents: Nancy Svoboda and Kim Savage.

Svoboda and Savage voted for Breuder’s gaudy contract buyout — which includes naming the school’s Homeland Security Education Center after him. Savage voted against the resolution to censure Hamilton; Svoboda abstained.

Hamilton, who is not up for re-election this year, is backing three candidates: retired database products businessman Charles Bernstein, of Wheaton, communications firm account manager Frank Napolitano, of Bloomingdale, and patent attorney Deanne Mazzochi, of Elmhurst.

Hamilton says she looked for candidates who would be proper checks on Breuder and who would make necessary but challenging decisions the board will confront going forward.

Others on the ballot have leveled various criticisms at the goings-on at COD. Claire Ball, of Addison, an accountant, says she would push for more transparency in no-bid contracts. Roger Kempa, of Darien, a retired community college administrator, has been a persistent critic of the board. Dan Bailey, of Wheaton, a registered nurse, vows that he wouldn’t rubber-stamp the administration’s recommendations. Matt Gambs, of Naperville, a banking executive and chairman of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, says he would bring needed financial expertise. Joseph Wozniak, of Naperville, is the father of board member Joseph Wozniak. Interesting debate: The younger Wozniak is a Breuder ally who voted for the buyout and the censure of Hamilton; the elder Wozniak has been critical of the buyout and has called on Breuder to turn down the money.

There are two more candidates. Dave Carlin, of Naperville, a senior adviser in the Illinois treasurer’s office and former chairman of the COD board, defends Breuder. Former state Rep. Sandra Pihos, of Glen Ellyn, is running a year after Republican primary voters rejected her bid for re-election to the House. So there you have it. The College of DuPage is the state’s largest community college. It collects roughly $108 million a year in property taxes.

Its students and taxpayers deserve leaders who understand and promote the mission of the college, who will challenge wasteful spending, who will demand a transparent and efficient administration.

That’s been missing. Maybe it’s hidden in the wine cellar.

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