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Crime & Courts

College of DuPage report: WDCB manager may have known about Elmhurst fraud

Document indicates senior administrators were kept in the dark about investigation

John Valenta
John Valenta

A previously redacted report released by the College of DuPage Board of Trustees shows the school's former WDCB radio station manager may have known about an investigation of an employee who allegedly stole thousands from the college years before senior administration learned of the possible wrongdoing.

The board unanimously approved releasing the independent report by Williams Montgomery and John, Ltd. to the public during its June 11 special meeting. The school hired the firm in February to investigate whether Elmhurst College notified the College of DuPage after learning of then-WDCB employee John Valenta's criminal behavior at Elmhurst.

Valenta, who worked as the WDCB station engineer from 1979 to 2014, is charged with stealing more than $100,000 from the station after allegedly filing false invoices for parts and work performed by his company, Broadcast Technologies.

Valenta's employment continued despite his being convicted of similar offenses at Elmhurst College, the report stated – even though former WDCB manager Scott Wager may have known about the previous investigation.

The 2011 investigation found crews were not present on days Valenta claimed they were performing services and equipment supposedly purchased by Elmhurst College through Broadcast Technologies did not exist at the school radio station.

Phone records and an interview with Caroline Krause, assistant director of campus security at Elmhurst College, indicate she spoke to the College of DuPage Police Department over the phone Jan. 31, 2011, and Feb. 1, 2011, to alert the school it was investigating Valenta for fraud, the report stated.

However, the College of DuPage officer she spoke to – whose name is redacted in the report – did not log the call in the department's Computer Aided Dispatch System – a breach in department policy. On Feb. 1, an officer contacted Krause and said he looked into the matter and was "dismissive of her concerns," according to the report.

The report stated it "appears most likely that Wager assuaged any concerns by telling [redacted officer] that the college's internal controls would not allow such a fraud to take place at COD."

The report went on to state there was "credible information" indicating that around March 2011, an employee at WDCB – whose name was also redacted – informed Wager she saw a news report of an investigation concerning Valenta.

Wager "looked like a ghost" when he saw it, the report stated.

The same employee said she then saw Wager and Valenta meet days later behind closed doors, and assumed the matter was addressed.

College of DuPage's response to discoveries made years later indicate no top administrator knew about the fraud before December 2013, according to the report.

In 2012, management of WDCB was transferred to the Marketing and Communications Department, headed by Joe Moore. After "generally acceptable" performance reviews through his career, Wager was not able to meet Moore's standards and retired effective July 31, 2013, the report stated.

Upon taking temporary control of the station, Moore began to question Valenta's actions, particularly frequent overtime charges. Moore later shared his concerns with new station manager Dan Bindert, hired Oct. 28, 2013.

Bindert also noticed several irregularities, including once when he was driving to work and heard the station go off air. He called Valenta immediately, who texted he was "on it" before service was restored.

"In retrospect, it is incredible to Bindert that there could have been a failure and that Valenta could have responded to it so quickly," the report stated.

In December 2013, the engineer of another radio station warned Bindert to take a closer look at Valenta, citing past problems. Bindert was also advised the transmitter the college used was known as "bulletproof" and one that "rarely breaks down."

However, Valenta frequently said transmitter and power supply issues were the source of problems requiring purchases of parts or equipment.

There was also no record of a transmitter purchase by Broadcast Technologies from transmitter company Harris Technologies, according to the report.

Within 24 hours of the warning, Bindert brought his findings to Moore. Shortly afterward, senior management was assembled to address and investigate the allegations. Valenta resigned Feb. 7, 2014, and the firm was hired Feb. 15, 2015, to create the report.

Board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said the board "neither endorses nor accepts" the report, and said it would conduct its own investigation on the matter.

"The public has paid for this report," she said in a statement released with the report. "It deserves to read it. ... It describes an unfortunate chapter in COD history that this board will never allow to happen again."

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