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Crime & Courts

Former College of DuPage officials file suit claiming political motivations behind termination

A lawsuit naming the College of DuPage and a pair of high-level officials claims firing two college financial administrators earlier this year was politically motivated and unconstitutional.

Attorneys for Thomas Glaser, former senior vice president of administration and treasurer, and Lynn Sapyta, former assistant vice president of financial affairs and controller, filed a formal suit against the college, interim President Joseph Collins and Board of Trustees Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton this week.

Shelly Kulwin, who represents the pair with attorney Peter Lubin, said in a statement that the case would show "irresponsible and reckless allegations may make for juicy headlines, but they wither in the bright light of a court of law."

The two were fired in September after an internal investment audit uncovered several areas of noncompliance with board policy, including exceeding limits for specific types of investments deemed as potentially volatile.

None could be considered as "for cause" termination, the suit alleges.

Instead, it contends the two were fired for campaigning against Hamilton's handpicked "Clean Slate" candidates who swept into office in April, largely dominating the field with promises of large scale personnel and policy reform at the school, including the ousting of controversial President Robert Breuder. Breuder also was fired earlier this year after allegations of financial mismanagement.

Hamilton was voted chairwoman with her new board majority, using her authority to appoint "her political supporter" Collins to his current position to "unlawfully terminate [the] Plaintiffs and then approving those terminations," the suit alleges.

The suit holds Glaser and Sapyta as key cogs in the college's turnaround in recent years. The two and other college administrators worked to "overhaul" COD's financial management tools and bring stability, the suit states, leading to a tripling of the college's fund balance, numerous campus improvements, high bond ratings and a successful capital referendum.

In spite of their success, Hamilton fired the pair after Glaser and Sapyta attended campaign events and supported candidates running against the Clean Slate, speaking out against her agenda, according to the suit.

The suit states Hamilton, or those affiliated with her, frequently brought up Glaser's work as aide to Cook County Board President John Stroger and Sapyta's with the Chicago Transit Authority to paint them as "'Cook County Democrats' who were political hacks not working in the best interests of COD and/or DuPage County taxpayers."

The entire termination process "was a mere sham that failed to offer Plaintiffs a timely and meaningful opportunity to challenge their terminations and thus deprived Plaintiffs of their property and liberty interests without due process of law," the suit states.

"Tom and Lynn have been devastated by the defendants' actions," Kulwin said in the statement. "They have not only unfairly lost their jobs, but they have had their longstanding and hard-earned professional reputations wrongly destroyed by the conduct set out in this complaint."

In a separate statement, Lubin said he was confident the evidence would prove the two excelled at their jobs and their termination was engineered so Hamilton could advance her agenda to run for higher office.

Kulwin said she hoped Collins and the board would resolve the case outside of court instead of "wasting additional taxpayer dollars on exorbitant legal fees defending it."

A statement issued by a spokesman for the college on behalf of the college, Collins and Hamilton said the complaint made false accusations, saying the former administrators signed due process protections in signed wavers.

It vowed the college would vigorously defend itself in court.

"The [College of DuPage] scrupulously afforded them every consideration and element of due process prior to making its final decision regarding their status," it stated. "Their assertions otherwise are clearly contradicted by well-established facts.”

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