The College of DuPage Board of Trustees have started the process of firing embattled President Robert Breuder – and may prevent him from getting his controversial $763,000 buyout.
During its Aug. 20 meeting, the divided board voted 4-2 to begin the termination proceedings against Breuder after the conclusion of an internal investigation dating back to the new board's first month in office. The board heard the results of the investigation, among other items, during a two-hour executive session at the beginning of the meeting.
Board Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said the vote was not a conclusion or finding, but the beginning of a process.
"The college states its case privately and the president on leave, Breuder, has every opportunity to answer that case," she said.
Breuder has been at the center of some of the school's biggest controversies, including his $763,000 buyout, the impression that politically connected individuals received lucrative contracts and lavish college spending – eventually becoming one of the centerpieces of a federal investigation.
Breuder will receive a notice of termination detailing the reasons for his firing, then have the opportunity for both a hearing and an appeal, as well as legal representation. Details on the final vote are still unclear, as Breuder's contract specifies it requires a 5-2 vote to fire him and state law says it only requires four votes.
College legal representation did not offer an opinion to the public, saying it would be a violation of the privacy of the matter.
Hamilton said the board would "strictly guard the integrity of the process" so the public and Breuder could be assured of a fair decision. Recently, the audio of a Dec. 18, 2014, closed session meeting involving Breuder's buyout was illegally leaked to the media.
Should he be terminated with cause, he would not be able to collect his controversial severance package, though he could sue and challenge the school's decision.
The two trustees voting against the measure, Dianne McGuire and Joseph Wozniak, were both on the board prior to this year's election and worked alongside Breuder. Former board Chairwoman Erin Birt was not at the meeting.
McGuire said she was not convinced the board was justified and had a legal basis for the proceedings and believed the action was taken for political reasons.
"[Chairwoman] Hamilton and her slate of candidates ran on the platform of firing Dr. Breuder," she said. "They are determined to meet their campaign pledge regardless of the facts and legal realities."
Hamilton said the the public spoke at the polls in voting the slate of reform candidates she backed, and that the board promised change and was delivering it.
Wozniak said he was against moving forward because a possible lawsuit could end up costing the college much more than Breuder's buyout and add to the bad reputation of the college.
Trustee Charles Bernstein asked Breuder to accept the board's decision and forgo any contesting of the termination, which also drew applause from the crowd.
"I call on Dr. Breuder to put the college first," he said. "Forego the severance and simply walk away."
Faculty Association and Faculty Senate President Glenn Hansen said the faculty would greet the night's vote with joy, but the enthusiasm would be tempered by the damage Breuder's reign left.
Hansen said there was a "preponderance of evidence that Robert Breuder has damaged the college in many ways" and called on the oft-oppositional board members who served under Breuder's administration to move forward with governing the school in light of the vote.
"While the faculty are looking to a brighter future, we are constantly reminded of the past by the undying support he receives from a small faction of trustees every two weeks," he said. "Regardless, this anticipated action by the Board will clearly indicate that the abuses of the past are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."