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College of DuPage fails Good Government 101

The College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

Why do public agencies so love to throw around the taxpayers’ money — your money — just to send some executive off into a rich, fat and early retirement?

EDITORIAL

It seems like just yesterday that Metra was so obnoxiously free with other people’s money, shelling out $652,363.10 to make its executive director, Alex Clifford, go away. Now the board of the College of DuPage has trumped Metra in this game of indefensible giveaways, approving $763,000 in severance for its president. As part of the deal, the president, Robert Breuder, will quit his $484,813-a-year job three years early.

This for a guy who already scooped up a $508,000 compensation package when he left his previous job as president of Harper College.

To make matters worse, the community college’s board saw no need to keep the public apprised along the way about what’s happening to their wallets.

Since hiring Breuder in 2008, the College of DuPage board has sweetened his contract at least five times to give him extensions, more money and more time off. But approval of three of those changes sailed through without showing up on the agenda ahead of time and without public discussion, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Breuder has been a controversial figure on campus for years. Faculty members were concerned about investments he championed that seemed peripheral to the college’s core academic mission, such as putting money in a French restaurant and a boutique hotel. Last May, Breuder sent an email to trustees outlining a plan to essentially trick then-Gov. Pat Quinn into forking over $20 million so the college could “bank it until we figure out how to use it.” In September, the Faculty Association issued a no-confidence vote because, as Association President Glenn Hansen put it, of an “environment of distrust.”

State lawmakers are talking about sending the College of DuPage to the principal’s office. Good for them. State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, has called on the state to review the college’s spending for the last four years. State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, has threatened to introduce legislation to cut the school’s funding by more than $1 million a year.

That kind of fury is great to see. Maybe more government boards would show more common sense if their spendthrift ways were so publicly and loudly ridiculed.

At an overflow board meeting this week, students, faculty members and local residents asked the College of DuPage board to reconsider the severance package because it is undeserved, takes money from worthy academic programs and, frankly, makes the college look foolish. Many of the critics pleaded with Breuder to resign outright without the severance.

Not that he will, right? A man can eat a lot of excellent French meals while staying at lovely boutique hotels for $763,000. Heck, he can invite the whole board. You, the taxpayers, have already picked up the check.