By Jodi S. Cohen and Stacy St. Clair
The College of DuPage board of trustees Thursday night approved a buyout package for its president that will give him a more than $750,000 severance payment and bring his controversial tenure at the publicly funded community college to a premature close.
The board voted 7-1 to pay President Robert Breuder more than double his base salary when he retires in about a year, on March 31, 2016. His contract had been set to end in 2019, according to a college spokesman.
Board Chairwoman Erin Birt did not publicly disclose the terms of the agreement, but the Tribune obtained a copy of it.
Erin Birt, chairwoman of the College of DuPage boar of trustees, refuses to discuss the board's $762,000 buyout package for President Robert Breuder after Thursday's vote.
The proposed agreement would give Breuder $762,868 for voluntarily retiring from the Glen Ellyn-based college, which he has overseen since January 2009. It also promises that the college will name its new Homeland Security Education Center after him as long as he maintains conduct that is "not materially detrimental to the reputation of the Board and/or the College."
Trustee Kim Savage made the motion to approve the agreement and congratulated Breuder.
"We now have an institution that is a desirable institution for people to come to, not an institution of second choice," she said.
Trustee Katharine Hamilton was the sole trustee to vote against it. She had asked to table the contract vote early in the meeting, but nobody seconded it and the motion failed.
According to the agreement, Breuder, 70, also will help in the search for his replacement and "cooperate in all aspects of the announcement" of his retirement.
Breuder said he would not comment on the agreement.
"We have seen extraordinary success on every front," Breuder wrote in a statement released after the late-night vote. "Throughout my career, i have been blessed with exceptional employees able to make dreams a reality. COD is no exception. We are without a doubt one of the finest community colleges in the nation."
According to the draft agreement, the president first expressed an interest in retiring last April, and he and the board have been discussing the terms of his retirement since then. The college did not make details of the proposed severance package public prior to the meeting, but the Tribune published details Thursday afternoon.
The size of the severance stoked growing criticism of Breuder and the college's financial dealings, including from Hamilton, who spoke during the public comment session.
"To award a golden parachute to Dr. Breuder today, at this meeting, is nothing other than a wanton betrayal of our constituents and our students," said Hamilton, who has criticized Breuder and her fellow trustees in the past. She said the board should instead fire Breuder based on a Tribune report last week that raised questions about financial oversight at the taxpayer-funded college.
College of DuPage employed radio engineer despite theft conviction "We should show Dr. Breuder the door," she added. "But instead, this board falls over itself — to give him a golden handshake. Here, tonight, taxpayers do not count. Insiders do."
Breuder's total compensation this fiscal year is $484,812, a college spokesman said. His base salary is about $293,000.
In addition to his salary, Breuder has been receiving a $700 a month car allowance and a $1,500 housing allowance, according to his original contract. He also can spend up to $700 a month on "professional development" and will be eligible for a retention bonus upon retirement.
Breuder also receives 25 vacation and five personal days each year. In 2010, the board gave him another 12 days in "respite and renewal" leave between the spring and fall semesters so he could have "dedicated time to evaluate the events of the previous academic year and focus his thinking and energies" on the year ahead.
The College of DuPage is the state's largest community college, with more than 28,000 students and $108 million in local property tax dollars.
Questions about financial oversight at the school have mounted in recent months. In June, the school lost $20 million in promised state funding after a watchdog group released emails in which Breuder said there was "perhaps no real need" for the money but he would tell Gov. Pat Quinn that the school would use it for a "Teaching and Learning Center" that would be "politically attractive" in a tense re-election year.
This month, the Tribune reported that the college continued to employ an engineer at campus radio station WDCB-FM 90.9 — and continued to pay bills submitted by his private company — for nearly two years after the man was convicted of felony theft for using that same business to steal from another local college. DuPage County prosecutors, according to documents, are investigating the school's dealings with the engineer.
Breuder also has come under fire for how he has used his expense account, including billing the school thousands of dollars for membership in a private shooting club. Trustees have defended the expense, saying it was part of his original contract and the club gives Breuder a place where he can socialize with donors.
The school's full-time faculty recently gave him a "no confidence" vote, the first in the school's 57-year history, according to the union representing faculty members. The board has never publicly addressed the vote, but a college spokesman dismissed it at the time as the result of tense contract negotiations.
Glenn Hansen, president of the College of DuPage Faculty Association, said the union was unable to get details of the contract addendum when it asked a school official Thursday afternoon. "Everybody has been in the dark until now," he said at the board meeting. He said he would not comment on the details of the contract because he hadn't seen it.
Breuder became the college's president after a decade leading Harper College in Palatine. He began his administrative career at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa.
During his tenure, he has pushed to expand the college's academic programs so it one day might offer select bachelor's degrees. He also oversaw the development of the college's 3+1 program, which allows students to take all four years of college with a partner university.
He helped secure the passage of a $168 million bond sale referendum amid challenging economic times. He also has led $550 million in campus improvements involving more than 1 million square feet of learning space, according to the college.
The school has dramatically renovated its campus during Breuder's tenure, adding an upscale restaurant and boutique hotel for its hospitality programs.
Prior to hiring Breuder, the college abruptly ousted President Sunil Chand in 2008 and agreed to pay him for the remaining year on his contract. His base salary was about $200,000.
Original Article, click here.