SPRINGFIELD, IL - Illinois House Republicans have advanced six pieces of legislation that seek to prevent future mismanagement at the College of DuPage (COD).
The $763,000 contract buyout deal the College of DuPage trustees pushed through for COD President Dr. Robert Breuder with no transparency for stakeholders, and taxpayers as well as state lawmakers reacted in public meetings. The outcry grew when records showed that Dr. Breuder, his top administrators and the college trustees enjoyed close to $200,000 in high-end dining on the taxpayers’ dime.
House Republicans, led by Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), petitioned Speaker Mike Madigan to schedule immediate hearings into what lawmakers felt was a clear misuse of public funds.
"Just last week we learned of yet another instance of questionable financial decision-making at COD, when the Chicago Tribune broke a story about COD Foundation board member Carla Burkhart, who received a no-bid $630,000 contract for sign design and installation work at the college," a press release from Rep. Ives' office said. "The contract made reference to Burkhart’s experience as an architect, when, in fact, she is not an architect and her firm does not do architectural work."
With the Friday deadline for House Bills to be moved through the House committee process, the following COD-related bills are now headed to the House floor for formal debate:
HR55, sponsored by Rep. Ives, directs the Auditor General to conduct a thorough performance audit at COD that is paid for by COD. Under the resolution, the performance audit would include the following determinations for Fiscal Years 2011-2014:
- The College of DuPage’s sources of revenues
- College expenditures, by broad category
- Whether the Board is carrying out its responsibilities required by Board policy
- Whether the Board is meeting its fiduciary responsibilities and ensuring compliance with the Public Community College Act and Board Policies
- Whether the compensation and severance packages provided to the COD President are comparable to compensation and severance packages provided to Presidents of other Illinois Community Colleges
- Whether changes to the College President’s compensation package were properly approved
HB303, sponsored by State Rep. Margo McDermod (R-New Lenox) adds transparency to publicly-funded severance agreements by making them subject to the the Freedom of Information Act.
HB3593, also sponsored by Ives, limits the term of a community college employment contract to no more than three years and caps the amount of a severance agreements to no more than one year. The bill also prohibits automatic renewal clauses and requires that renewal or extension discussions occur during open meetings.
Another bill sponsored by Ives - HB3998 - prohibits community colleges from holding more than four months of operating expenses in reserves (COD currently has 24 months of operating expenses in reserves).
HB4134, sponsored by State Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Lombard), provides that if community college trustees issue a severance package to an employee using State funds, the exact amount of the monetary severance package shall be deducted from the college’s state aid when the next aid disbursement is made by the Comptroller.
And also sponsored by Sandack - HB4135 - limits the amount of a community college severance package to one year of salary and one year of benefits.
“I’m thankful that the legislature, in a bipartisan manner, has recognized the seriousness of the situation at COD and is working in a comprehensive manner toward remedies and solutions,” said Ives.
“I am especially grateful for the level of legislative support that has been shown for HR55, because only after a thorough performance audit is performed by our independent Auditor General, will there be any chance for trust and confidence to be restored between the taxpayers who fund COD and the administrators and trustees who make spending decisions on behalf of the school and students.”
The legislature will return to session April 14, 2015.