The subpoenas, which were served to college administrators Monday, cover three main areas: administrator expenses, contracts with the college's fundraising foundation and credits awarded to police recruits at a law enforcement academy on the Glen Ellyn campus.
Federal authorities are demanding records from the College of DuPage, including those regarding the $800,000 severence package for outgoing President Robert Breuder. (WGN)
The subpoenas come as the publicly funded college has been grappling with tough questions about spending and financial oversight, including the awarding of one of the largest severance packages ever to a public employee in Illinois to its president, Robert Breuder.
The school released the subpoenas in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Chicago Tribune.
"The College of DuPage and the College of DuPage Foundation are confident in the proper conduct of their affairs and will fully cooperate with any government investigation," said Randall Samborn, who has been hired to handle crisis communications for the school.
The subpoenas, from a federal grand jury, present the state's largest community college with new legal and public relations problems. They follow a Tribune investigation that raised questions about everything from the spending of top administrators at the campus's high-end restaurant to the decision to give additional academic credits in a program without increasing the amount of training.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon declined to comment Wednesday.
The federal inquiry adds to investigations by DuPage County prosecutors as well as state education officials.
A DuPage County grand jury issued two subpoenas in early February, two weeks after the college's board of trustees awarded Breuder a $763,000 severance package to end his contract next year, three years early. A third subpoena was issued March 19.
The federal subpoenas request many of the records sought by DuPage prosecutors. Federal investigators have asked for employment records, expense reports and conflict-of-interest statements for Breuder, all senior managers and trustees.
The federal investigation also seeks records relating to the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy. The Tribune recently reported that the college increased the number of credits given to recruits in the training program without increasing the amount of instruction — a change that boosted enrollment figures and led one top official at the police academy to question "the integrity of this process" before he resigned late last year. The revelation upset the school's faculty union, which said the change should not have been made without consulting the campus's curriculum committee.
I hope Breuder's "golden parachute" fails to open for him!
School officials defended the increase, saying it brought the program in line with credit hours offered at other schools and did not need the curriculum committee's approval. They denied it had any connection to Breuder's well-publicized efforts to break the school's all-time enrollment record.
Both the DuPage and federal grand juries also sought Breuder-related employment agreements, contracts and other documents tied to his tenure. The federal subpoenas also asked for information about Breuder's college-issued credit cards, reimbursements and house accounts. The Tribune has reported that Breuder and his top administrators charged to house accounts about $190,000 at the campus's Waterleaf restaurant over the past three years, often drinking pricey wine and Champagne.
Federal authorities investigating College of DuPage, asking for documents detailing the community college's spending. (WGN)
The federal subpoenas seek documents related to contracts awarded to all foundation board members. The Tribune has reported that nearly half of the 23-member board had business dealings with the college, in some cases benefiting from noncompetitive contracts.
The federal investigation comes a week after voters elected three new trustees for the college, all of them part of a slate critical of Breuder and the current trustees. They are expected to take office in the next three weeks and have indicated they will place Breuder on administrative leave until the investigations conclude. They also have indicated they would seek to overhaul how contracts are awarded to foundation members and how other financial matters are handled.
College trustee Katharine Hamilton, who has been the lone dissenter on the college's board for a year and now is expected to chair the new board, said the board "will cooperate fully with all law enforcement investigations."
"Our job is to turn COD around," she said.
The college faculty union also has called for Breuder to be placed on the administrative leave.
Breuder, 70, has been a college president for 35 years, including the past six at the College of DuPage. His unapologetic leadership style and ambitious agenda have led to improved facilities and an enhanced curriculum. But he also has alienated many, including faculty who gave him a no-confidence vote in the fall.
The College of DuPage receives about $108 million a year in county property taxes and $57 million in state money. Illinois lawmakers have threatened to withhold funding from the school unless it agrees to a state-run audit, though those warnings have been largely ignored by college officials.
The board of trustees has canceled its regular monthly meeting scheduled for Thursday.
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