$95.1 million in hidden spending is exposed, while an Illinois junior college claimed transparency. College of DuPage wins national Golden Hammer award from the Washington Times for the most egregious example of government waste, fraud, corruption and taxpayer abuse.
In May 2013, College of DuPage (COD) President Robert Breuder traveled to Botswana, and bagged an African elephant. For this trip, taxpayers and students paid for his global satellite phone. Recently at Forbes, I documented the details, “$26 million Selfie at Illinois Junior College.” The satellite phone payments were not vetted by the college board of trustees, but instead flowed through a hidden “imprest” payment scheme.
Now, we know the full extent of hidden payment spending and it's quite "imprest-ive." Since 2009, $95.123 million was paid through “imprest” accounting at COD whereby the college administrators knew the payment details, but the board of trustees did not. Imprest accounting is akin to petty cash accounting according to the U.S. Department of Treasury and federal agencies eliminated this method of accounting in 1996.
Opening the books on $95 million of previously hidden payments, what did we find? Here’s a quick snapshot of the spending.
$95.138 million paid out to 6,788 school vendors and employees on 82,673 transactions since January 1, 2009:
1. Over $243,305 spent purchasing wine and alcohol described in the register as "instructional supplies."
2. President Breuder's private membership dues to the Max McGraw shooting club ($13,800) and three global satellite phones used on Breuder's exotic hunting trips were not disclosed. Total payments into Max McGraw club were $23,685- including an overnight senior management retreat.
3. COD President and senior managers double dipped their car allowances and collected over $4,809 of in-district mileage reimbursement.
4. Even the accountants and lawyers gleaned non-disclosed payments: Crowe Horwath $172,664; Robbins, Schwartz $464,873; and Franczek Radelet, $128,468.
5. Legat Architects- the lead architect for the Homeland Security Education Center at COD (which will bear Dr. Robert Breuder's name after his retirement) was paid-out $508,104.
6. Other connected vendors include COD Foundation Board members- lobbyists and construction companies- received large non-disclosed payments. i.e. Herricane Graphics ($435,365); Roger Marquardt & Co ($229,500); Wight & Company ($328,020); Fuchs & Roselli, Ltd. ($114,602); Mortenson Construction ($91,758); Power Construction ($41,522)
7. Designated 'petty cash' funds were hardly used, only $4,267 in payments over five years, while 'imprest funds' handled over 82,000 transactions.
8. Although President Breuder recently said 'imprest payments' were only used on amounts under $15,000, the data shows 232 payments exceeded that threshold and totaled $5.558 million.
9. Over $705,000 paid-out in newspaper and magazine advertising/ subscription expense.
The College of DuPage has over 95 million questions to answer-- click here to review the first 508 pages of hidden “imprest” payments. What vendors were paid how much, and who vetted and approved these payments?
The college has a troubled history which I recently detailed in Forbes, "The Real Financial Crisis in College." During the summer, a $20 million state construction grant was stopped after President Breuder's email strategy to bring political support to the incumbent governor was exposed. The "rainy day" bank account has a balance of $180 million. COD has spent $550,000,000 on construction since 2009- but built more office space than classroom space (excluding labs). The COD charitable foundation bought full-page political ads in newspapers backing the $168 million bond referendum in 2010 only weeks before the election. With the bond proceeds, the college built an upscale French restaurant, hotel and wine cellar.
Thanks to concerned citizens, watchdogs, active students, third party good government groups, the faculty's "no confidence" vote, major Illinois newspapers, the Washington Times, and a courageous reformer on the COD Board of Trustees--Vice Chairman Kathy Hamilton, the exposure of spending malfeasance at College of DuPage has created momentum for real reform.
Across America, citizens are demanding answers and substantial reforms from this junior college in Illinois. Stay tuned, this story is going to get even more interesting.
Notice: Adam Andrzejewski is the founder of OpenTheBooks.com a project of American Transparency 501(c)3. This article is based in-part on our on-going investigation of College of DuPage.