Board member endorses College of DuPage candidates running as slate

Board member endorses College of DuPage candidates running as slate

by Dawn Rhodes | Chicago Tribune

A trio of College of DuPage candidates are joining forces with a current trustee in hopes of forming an influential new majority on the embattled seven-member board.

Charles Bernstein, Frank Napolitano and Deanne Marie Mazzochi, dubbing themselves the “Clean Slate,” announced their partnership Monday. Trustee Kathy Hamilton formally endorsed the group, which pledged to return fiscal transparency and accountability to the Glen Ellyn-based community college, the largest in Illinois.

“These candidates represent the future for the College of DuPage,” Hamilton said. “True reform and enduring reform for our community college could only take place under one circumstance, and that circumstance is a new board. The college has to start anew.”

All three hopefuls cited recent controversies over President Robert Breuder’s $763,000 severance package and financial mismanagement at the college radio station — issues brought to light by the Tribune — as their primary reasons for entering the race.

Board members approved Breuder’s retirement package and several raises throughout his tenure largely in secret and without proffering public participation. Details on Breuder’s severance deal, which sets his retirement in March 2016, were not made public before a board vote in January and only were revealed after the Tribune obtained a copy of the terms. Hamilton was the lone trustee who refused to support the school’s agreement for Breuder.

The Tribune also uncovered that the school retained its former radio engineer and paid invoices to the employee’s own company long after he was convicted for running a similar scheme to steal from Elmhurst College. John Valenta was charged with felony theft Feb. 20, accused of stealing over $200,000 from College of DuPage by falsifying invoices for equipment and labor. He retired from the school in February 2013.

“The Board of Trustees has abandoned their oversight responsibility,” said Bernstein of Wheaton. “This breakdown in internal controls can have some very dire financial repercussions for the college.”

Mazzochi of Elmhurst said the group wants to review Breuder’s severance agreement and remains unconvinced that the board appropriately approved the large payout, one of the largest in state history, and whether the college legally is on the hook for that money.

“We need to go back and review all of the email traffic, all of the written traffic, all of the closed session minutes and meeting transcripts, so we can get a full picture as to what was promised, what wasn’t promised and when,” Mazzochi said.

Napolitano of Bloomingdale added that the group wants to improve ties between the board and faculty, particularly in light of the faculty’s unprecedented no-confidence vote in Breuder’s leadership late last year.

“They need to know that they can contact us and express their concerns before things get out of hand, before things escalate to the point that they did,” Napolitano said. “We need to hear from them at board meetings.”

Voters face a crowded ballot in the April 7 election, with 12 people running for three, six-year positions…(read full)