Daily Herald: COD President Breuder taking medical leave American_Flag8

April 28, 2015 10:37 PM

By: Robert Sanchez


Current board Chairwoman Erin Birt said the leave is for eligible employees and approved internally through the college's human resources department and isn't an item the board can approve. Birt said she received notice of Breuder's leave Tuesday.


COD spokesman Randall Samborn said he didn't know when Breuder made the request, but the leave was approved under policies and protocols the college established to comply with federal guidelines for the Family and Medical Leave Act.


The announcement comes as a reform group that has won control of the school's board of trustees revealed its plans to put Breuder on paid administrative leave as soon as Thursday as part of sweeping changes at the embattled school.


Trustee Kathy Hamilton, who has been at the forefront of the reform movement and is expected to be elected chairwoman of the board Thursday night, said she was not consulted about Breuder's medical leave.


"As far as I'm concerned, we're going to go ahead with the paid leave of absence," Hamilton said Tuesday night. "It's his decision, and he's gone on paid medical leave. Our board decision is to put him on paid administrative leave -- and that's what we can do if we have the votes."


Trustee Joseph C. Wozniak, who has opposed putting the president on leave, said he was unaware of Breuder's medical leave. He said he spoke with Birt earlier in the day and she did not mention it.


Faculty Association President Glenn Hansen said he also didn't know why Breuder decided to take the medical leave.


"I certainly hope that it's nothing serious," Hansen said. "but I can understand the stress of the situation that he's in."


Breuder could not be reached for comment.


In a letter sent Tuesday to Breuder, Hamilton and three political allies who won three available seats on the seven-member board in the April 7 election directed Breuder to schedule a special Thursday night meeting that would take place after the new board's organizational meeting.


The agenda for the special meeting was posted Tuesday evening on COD's website.


During that meeting, the newly seated board is expected to move for Breuder to be placed on administrative leave and for Executive Vice President Joseph Collins to be appointed as acting interim president.


"We have a crisis at the college," Hamilton said. "We have ongoing investigations, and he (Breuder) needs to leave the premises."


Earlier this month, federal investigators conducting a criminal investigation of COD issued subpoenas requesting an array of documents related to Breuder, college trustees, senior management personnel, COD Foundation members, and entities professionally associated with COD Foundation members. The foundation is the college's fundraising arm.


DuPage County prosecutors also are doing their own probe of COD. They issued subpoenas seeking years of spending records and contract information for Breuder.


According to the proposed board resolution, placing Breuder on paid administrative leave would let the board conduct its own investigation "into the policies, personnel, practices and finances of the college." Breuder would remain on administrative leave until the probe is completed.


"It's in the best interest for him to leave," Hamilton said. "Most people would have left already. So we have to place him on administrative leave, and that needs to be done immediately."


Meanwhile, Hamilton called Collins "an excellent choice" for the acting interim president role because he knows the job, he's already in place and "people know him and respect him."


"The college will continue to operate smoothly with him at the helm," Hamilton said.


Trustees-elect Charles Bernstein, Frank Napolitano and Deanne Mazzochi were backed by Hamilton during the election. They have said Breuder should step aside so work can begin on addressing issues at the college.


As part of Thursday's special board meeting, the new board also wants to discuss forming an ad hoc committee to conduct a search for an interim president.


In addition, the agenda lists numerous proposed changes, including hiring two new law firms, authorizing one of the law firms to do an internal investigation, and suspending all travel and entertainment reimbursement for trustees.


Another proposed motion would suspend all house accounts for the Waterleaf Restaurant. It recently has been revealed that school administrators and board members spent taxpayers' money on meals and drinks for themselves at the upscale restaurant.


"We have some policy changes that need to be put in place," Hamilton said. "There's no time to waste."


In addition, the new board may consider authorizing funding so Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland can conduct a performance audit of the college.


State Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican, called for a probe of COD's finances after the board approved a $762,868 deal for Breuder to retire about three years earlier than his existing contract's expiration date. Hamilton was the only trustee to vote against the buyout for Breuder.


State lawmakers previously gave the outgoing COD board a deadline to authorize spending up to $234,000 for the state to conduct the performance audit, but that deadline was missed.


Hamilton said she doesn't want to wait to tell Springfield that the new board wants the investigation. "We want to hit the ground running," she said.


Initially, it was anticipated the performance audit would reveal whether the COD board has followed its own policies and state laws since fiscal 2011.


Hamilton said she wants the performance audit to go deeper.


"The scope is not sufficient enough to draw a conclusion," she said. "I think more information is needed."


So the new board is expected to request the audit also include all 2009 and 2010 transactions of the college and the foundation. In addition, the new board majority wants the state to examine all 2009 and 2010 transactions "related to any bond offerings, or utilizing the proceeds from any bond offering."


• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.


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