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Opinion

Our view: Breuder's payoff part of a pattern of poor leadership

A view of a College of DuPage building in Glen Ellyn.
A view of a College of DuPage building in Glen Ellyn.

In a state with budgets in disarray, with the biggest pension crisis in the nation, with one governor in prison for corruption and another just recently released, it’s pretty tough to stomach Robert Breuder’s $760,000 payoff to retire early as College of DuPage president.

At $142 per credit hour, a full-time student at College of DuPage taking 15 credit hours of classes can expect to pay $6,390 in tuition and fees alone. So Brueder’s windfall could pay for 118 students to go to school for a year, tuition free.

Beyond the money itself, there’s the problem of what it represents. With this deal, which the College of DuPage trustees have approved twice now, Breuder gets to walk away from this job proud of all his achievements, convinced his tenure was a magnificent success, marred only by some meaningless unpleasantness at the very end.

Oh, and he gets a building named after him.

But what we don’t know is how many of those achievements and grand successes are empty. Breuder’s surprise retirement has come on the heels of the release of an email that showed the kind of dirty politics he’s capable of. He’s been exposed as just another Illinois charlatan, the kind of leader who has no qualms about pointing one way and then running the other.

Breuder’s email to the board, which leaked in July, shows him proposing to deceive the state by making a planned project more politically attractive in order to wrangle $20 million in funding that the college was owed.

In the email, Breuder expressed frustration over dealing with the governor’s office to free up the $20 million and said he wanted the board to convey the need for a teaching and learning facility as a means to obtain the money.

“I have no problem with [board members commenting on the need for a facility]; however, not being able to say how we would use the state’s money (perhaps no real need) could lessen our chances to break the money loose at this time (the political moon is rising),” Breuder said in the email. “A building that focuses on teaching and learning is politically attractive; more so than let’s say a student center, PE facility, etc.”

Breuder also suggested getting the funding from the state and coming up with a plan of how to spend it at a later date.

“There is also the option of telling the Governor we want the money, will bank it until we figure out how to use it and then building something,” Breuder said in the email. “Bottom line: I need some room to breathe on this matter so I can enhance the likelihood we get the $20 million soon.”

The Chicago suburbs have seen something like this play out before. It was only in 2009 that McHenry County College up in Crystal Lake told their president, Walt Packard, his services were no longer needed. They decided they couldn’t fire him, though, and gave him another $200,000, plus benefits, for his trouble.

Looking further downstate, when University of Illinois President Michael Hogan was fired in 2012 after just 20 months on the job – after succeeding another fired president – he was awarded a one-year, $285,100 “sabbatical” before he then returned as a history professor.

Then these “leaders” go on to collect exorbitant pensions on top of the one-time piles of cash.

As Illinois residents, as taxpayers in Du-Page County, we can have no tolerance for these kinds of shenanigans anymore. We don’t want to hear that this is how things get done. Somehow, other states manage to get things accomplished without constantly resorting to dirty dealing.

These payouts for failure have to stop.

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