Chicago Tribune - Feb. 11, 2015

By Stacy St. Clair and Jodi S. Cohen

An Illinois Senate panel will ask College of DuPage President Robert Breuder to appear before its members and answer questions regarding his controversial severance package from the publicly funded school, lawmakers said Wednesday.

The newly formed subcommittee on executive compensation also wants to speak with some of the college's trustees, most of whom have refused to discuss the $763,000 buyout. The board has referred to the deal as a "retirement" package in news releases, but at least two members now acknowledge they approved the deal in order to prematurely terminate Breuder's contract, which ran until 2019.

"It has sparked outrage in DuPage County and, really, throughout the state," state Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, the subcommittee's chairman, said at a news conference. "It has raised a series of questions on how institutions of higher learning compensate their top executives."

Breuder's total compensation this year is about $484,000, according to an agreement that was secretly changed by the trustees over the years. Among other perks, Breuder gets housing and car allowances, $10,000 a year for professional development, pension contributions and a membership at an exclusive hunting club.

College spokesman Joseph Moore said the school is confident the subcommittee's investigation will find that Breuder's compensation is not unusual for an administrator with his experience. But he would not say whether Breuder would appear before the panel voluntarily.

"We are supportive of examining the compensation of senior higher education administrators," Moore said.

The Senate panel plans to investigate the salaries and perks provided to college administrators throughout the state. On Tuesday, Cunningham sent letters to the presidents of the state's nine public universities and 38 community colleges requesting senior leaders' contracts, buyouts and severance agreements from the past 10 years. He also requested all perks given to those employees, including housing expenses, memberships and other compensation.

The institutions are to provide records related to the president, provost, vice presidents, general counsel, athletic director and other top executives, according to letter. The schools were given a deadline of Feb. 17 to respond.

In the wake of the College of DuPage controversy, legislators have filed numerous bills aimed at punishing the school and preventing other taxing bodies from approving similar buyouts. Committee members said there must be a comprehensive look at college and university compensation before any decisions are made on those bills.

The Senate subcommittee plans to hold hearings across the state and intends to finish its work by the end of the spring session, lawmakers said. The subcommittee will post the contracts online as part of its efforts.

View the original story, including video of Senator Bush's comments.

Category: In The News

Feb. 13, 2015 - Lake County News-Sun

By Yadira Sanchez Olson

More than 200 people answered the third annual call to rise and fight for the safety of all women Thursday during a local version of the international One Billion Rising campaign..
 
The Lake County Rising event brought together residents as well as dozens of local officials and social service agencies at the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center, all determined to continue and broaden the movement.

Each year, near Valentine's Day, One Billion Rising reminds the world that while some women are feeling love and affection, there are others who are experiencing pain and fear.

"What a horrible thing to bring us together," said state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-31, of Grayslake, who helped organize the event. "But together is how we can end the violence."

Although the message is profound and pressing, as one in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, the night's presentations were filled with hope that those in attendance will take action and make a change.

Former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who has prosecuted domestic violence cases, used her musical talents to bring attention to the dark side of some relationships.

Simon played the banjo and sang songs with stories about women who met tragic deaths at the hands of men who said they loved them.

"As you can see, violence is part of our culture and it's going to take a culture change to fix it," Simon said.

Grayslake mother Lauren Roback said it was fate that brought her to the Lake County Rising event Thursday.

Hours before, she had been cleaning her car and found a flier to the event.

On a whim she decided to attend with her 7-year-old daughter Angela and her friend Kritina Zavala.

"I'm a victim of emotional abuse," Roback said. "Coming to these events helps identify what you're gong through."

Roback was able to connect with a Safe Place and said she was happy to find out that the organization provides free counseling.

"I don't want my daughter to ever have to go through this," Roback said. "I have to break the cycle."

Agency officials passed out literature and spoke about available resources.
 
Additional performances included poems written by women who have experienced violence as well as a dance routine by Zion middle school dancers and the North shore Elite Cheerleaders.

View the original story.

Category: In The News

Arlington Heights Daily Herald - Jan. 30, 2015

By Erin Hegarty

Some suburban lawmakers want to punish College of DuPage for President Robert Breuder's $762,868 severance package.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican, called for the state's top auditor to review how the college has handled money since 2011.

Ives wants the audit to be conducted as soon as possible and requests that "any other state agency or entity that may have information relevant to this audit cooperate fully and promptly" with the auditor. She filed a resolution to push the matter in the Illinois House and quickly found some backing.

"The board had a chance to correct this decision. Now I join with Rep. Jeanne Ives in calling for an audit," Rep. Steve Andersson, a Geneva Republican, posted online Thursday.

And state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, said before Wednesday's COD board approval of the severance deal that he will introduce legislation to slash state funding for COD by more than $1.5 million next year.

Franks says Breuder's buyout "is a misuse of precious funds that the school receives from the state and a disservice to the students who attend that institution."

College of DuPage received $14.2 million in state money last year, Franks said.

The COD board on Wednesday approved, for the second time, Breuder's severance package with another 6-1 vote in favor of the buyout. The vote was restaged because of what Chairwoman Erin Birt said was a "procedural" error in the initial vote.

Trustee Kim Savage, speaking at the time of the initial vote, praised Breuder for his service. "We now have an institution that is a desired institution to come to, not an institution of second choice," she said.

Breuder's buyout also includes an early retirement date and the promise of a building named after him if he stays on good behavior until his 2016 departure.

State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, says he'll write legislation to prevent naming a government building for a departing president and to restrict buyout provisions in officials' contracts.

"As a local taxpayer I'm offended. As a lawmaker I'm outraged," Cullerton said. "The college's priority should be educating students, not handing out golden parachutes."

State Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, says she's met with the Senate's legal staff about how to put a cap on the size of severance packages, but she said details of legislation aren't ready yet.

Other large severance packages already have caught lawmakers' attention.

State Rep. Margo McDermed, a Mokena Republican, introduced legislation before COD's final decision calling for more transparency in publicly funded severance agreements. The plan is aimed at the 2013 deal in which Metra agreed to a $442,000 severance package with former CEO Alex Clifford.

Her legislation would ensure severance agreements funded partly or fully with taxpayer money be made public.

McDermed says it's time to build this transparency into Illinois law.

"If taxpayers knew what was going on with money, they might vote differently in elections for things like college boards," McDermed said.

View the original article.

Category: In The News

Arlington Heights Daily Herald - Jan. 29, 2015

By Erin Hegarty

Suburban Republicans are getting ready to unveil measures they say could prevent big buyouts like the $762,868 the College of DuPage board gave President Robert Breuder.

State Reps. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton and Ron Sandack of Downers Grove will be joined by other DuPage County lawmakers Monday when they announce the new legislation aimed at taxpayer-funded severance packages.

For starters, Sandack wants to ban boards from using state money to pay for severance deals like Breuder's.

"If local boards want to cut deals like this, they can, but they can only use local dollars," Sandack said.

Sandack also wants to move community college board candidates off the spring ballot, which they share with candidates for other local offices. Instead, he'd like college trustees to be elected every other November, during higher-profile elections, to increase voter turnout and interest in the races.

Ives wants to give taxpayers two weeks to see proposed contracts being offered to top public officials before boards can vote to accept them.

Ives has also called for a performance audit of COD's finances going back to 2011. The resolution to conduct the audit already has more than 50 bipartisan sponsors, Ives said.

Ives said these proposals are not final, and "not all of us have signed on to everyone else's bills." And there could be more plans announced Monday.

Democrats have gotten in on the act, too. State Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo wants to cut the amount of state money COD gets. State Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park wants to keep names like Breuder's off government buildings. And state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake wants to cap the value of severance deals for public employees.

View the original article.

Category: In The News

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