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Public airs grievances over leaked College of DuPage email, President Breuder responds

Published: Friday, July 18, 2014 1:22 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:34 a.m. CDT
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(Evan Shields - eshields@shawmedia.com)
The College of DuPage Board of Trustees prepares for public comment Thursday.

GLEN ELLYN – Members of the public expressed displeasure Thursday with College of DuPage President Robert Breuder during the first Board of Trustees meeting since an email from the president discussing how to obtain $20 million in state funding leaked.

The email was sent by Breuder to trustees May 9 and adressed finding a way to free up millions that had been promised to the college, but not delivered. 

In the email, Breuder suggested board members publicly request a "politically attractive" teaching facility. He also said he thought they should get the money first and then find a use for it.

At its June 26 meeting, the board voted 6-1 to approve a $30 million appropriation for the building, with the expectation that $20 million would be provided by the state.

After the email leaked, a spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn said the college would not receive the funds.

Faculty association President Glenn Hansen read an open letter to the board from the faculty senate, urging members to open an investigation into Breuder's comments.

"The statements in the email by the president are evidence of an attitude and deeply held belief that violates our trust and are in opposition to board policies," Hansen said.

"Your silence supports and condones this email," he said.

Several members of the public called the email "embarrassing," including Denise Cattoni.

"I have no confidence in Dr. Breuder as the head of College of DuPage," she said. "I think Dr. Breuder should resign."

Chuck Hamm, a Wheaton resident, said the college should hold off on building until after the economic downturn.

"This is not the way for the Board of Trustees to maintain a strong fiduciary responsibility," Hamm said.

Adam Andrzejewski, the founder of For The Good of Illinois, the group that leaked Breuder's email, said the board should be ashamed.

"Dr. Breuder is embarrassing you," he said.

In all, 14 people spoke out about Breuder and the email. 

Board members did not respond to the public's comments, but after the meeting, Breuder said he was not concerned.

"These 20 people do not represent the public at large," he said.

Breuder called the public comments a "coordinated, orchestrated attack on the College of DuPage." He went on to defend the email.

"That email was nothing more than me wanting to get the board on the same page with where we are going," Breuder said, calling the release of the email a "breach of good ethics."

Board documents show the College of DuPage performed an internal audit July 7 to determine if there had been any misspending of state funds. That audit found no inappropriate actions.

An external audit by Crowe Horwath LLP yielded similar results July 10. Breuder said the results of the audits have been sent to the governor's office.

Andrzejewski and several other residents questioned Breuder's compensation, which Breuder said he did not need to defend.

"If this board didn't think I was worth what I'm being paid, they wouldn't have entered into a contract," he said.

Toward the end of the meeting, board Chairwoman Erin Birt said Kathy Hamilton, the lone dissenting vote on the building proposal, made misstatements to the public about the issue.

Birt said Hamilton took "contradictory positions," having approved the agenda weeks before the meeting and voted in favor of setting aside $33 million in March for a potential project. Birt said Hamilton sent an email to the board saying she supported building a teaching and learning center, but did not have enough information to make a decision June 26.

"I don't feel any misstatements are appropriate," Birt said.

Hamilton said approving an agenda doesn't mean she approved moving forward with the idea and that she spoke with Breuder about her concerns.

"I reject 100 percent, uncategorically what Erin has put in front of you," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she felt Birt's comments were "kind of an ambush."

"We should be talking about an email that is an embarrassment to this college," Hamilton said.

Hamilton had an attorney present at Thursday's meeting: Stephen Brown, of Schuyler, Roche & Crisham. Brown said litigation could be forthcoming if there were retribution or disciplinary action taken against Hamilton as a result of the email fallout.

Note to readers: A previous version of this story misstated the name of For The Good of Illinois founder Adam Andrzejewski.

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