College of DuPage officials said they are committed to addressing the concerns brought forth in an audit conducted by the Illinois Auditor General.
"I am very grateful to the board for pursuing this audit," COD President Ann Rondeau said during a Sept. 28 news conference about the newly released audit. "It is an examination of the college that I would have sought anyway. I can already say that it is going to be a very useful document for us, in addition to other self-examinations that we are conducting and have done."
Rondeau started July 1 as COD's sixth president. The Illinois House of Representatives in May 2015 asked the Auditor General to review the college's finances after the board approved a $763,000 severance package for then-President Robert Breuder. The audit was introduced as a legislative resolution by state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton. In October 2015, the board voted 4-1 to fire Breuder after voiding the severance package.
The Auditor General's audit of COD stated that "overall, the Board of Trustees could improve its oversight and the college could improve its operations in several areas." The audit contains 19 recommendations for the board and college.
Among its findings, the audit found the college "could not provide documentation to show that the board was evaluating the president's performance annually, as is required by board policy and the president's employment agreement." The audit also stated COD could not provide documentation to "show that the board was receiving quarterly investment reports or that the college was annually reviewing its investments as required by board policy."
The audit also criticized COD for not clearly documenting the need for bank transfers and that procurements did not always comply with established requirements. In reviewing 12 building projects totaling $403.7 million for the period from fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2015, auditors also found the college did not maintain a master list for construction contracts and it took more than two months to compile a list.
Auditors recommended the college and board could improve oversight of construction activities by establishing a facilities/construction committee, requiring status reports at meetings, obtaining Illinois Community College Board approval of construction projects prior to the awarding of contracts and establishing a written policy for types of work classified as professional services.
In collecting information from 16 other community colleges from which a president had separated, auditors found that only three of the 16 presidents reviewed received a lump sum payment upon separation, ranging from $380,245 at Moraine Valley Community College to $103,269 at Morton College.
Board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi, who was swept into office in April 2015 as part of a slate of candidates who ran on the platform of implementing reforms at COD, said trustees will look at all of the findings from the audit.
"There certainly are things that they've identified that we have been working on and fixed the problem," Mazzochi said. "But there are additional items, for example, construction, where that is going to be an area where we should look far more closely at our policies. We want to really make sure that we are in full compliance with the law."
Following the April 2015 election, trustees authorized an audit by the Auditor General. COD will pay for the audit's cost, although that cost is not yet known, Rondeau said.
Trustee Charles Bernstein, who serves as chairman of the board's Audit Committee, said during its Sept. 27 meeting, committee members discussed a review of the college's internal controls.
"We are continuing to try to make our operations more transparent and more effective," he said.
Trustees also said issues with internal controls and policy compliance have been addressed repeatedly in the past year. New external auditors have been brought in, officials said, and there has been additional training specific to board members and senior management on ethics and fiduciary responsibilities. In addition, there have been about 20 board policy revisions to improve board oversight.
They also noted that since summer 2015, the president has been obligated to personally review, approve and sign all budget transfers of $10,000 and more.
The board plans to take several more steps, including ensuring that all future construction contracts will be approved by the Illinois Community College Board along with considering revised policies that require disclosure to the board of all budget transfers. The board also looks to formalize the existing practice of presidential approval of all transfers more than $10,000 and to require written documentation detailing the reasons for transfers.
"We want to be accountable," Mazzochi said.