The College of DuPage board of trustees voted 4-3 to put President Robert Breuder on paid administrative leave after debating his fate Thursday night on the Glen Ellyn campus.
Loud applause from the crowd followed the vote.
Breuder has faced scathing criticism for extravagant spending. He went on a voluntary medical leave two days ago.
The vote was divided between newly elected chairwoman Katharine Hamilton and her three allies, who were elected earlier this month, and three existing board members.
The two sides argued about everything from how the night’s agenda was put together to whether Breuder deserved to be put on leave given his apparent illness.
“I’m not going to kick the man while he’s down,” trustee Joseph Wozniak said. “That’s just improper to me.”
Trustees Erin Birt and Dianne McGuire repeatedly questioned Hamilton’s motives throughout the evening on almost every issue before the board.
At one point McGuire told Hamilton: “Your smirk is most unbecoming. I thought respect was part of your protocol, Kathy.”
Supporters of both factions were in the crowd, and derisive laughter was frequent Thursday night.
Before the vote, Hamilton promised those in attendance that the college would, going forward, be focused on transparent reform.
“This institution faces criminal investigations, legislative disdain . . . and alienation from constituents,” Hamilton said. “Those constituents are rightly outraged at what the Chicago Tribune has reported in the last seven months.”
The college has come under fire over a $763,000 severance package to end Breuder’s contract next year, three years early. His compensation this year is $484,812. The Tribune, which has written extensively about alleged financial irregularities at the college, has reported that going on medical leave will likely result in Breuder getting his full buyout.
The Tribune’s investigative reporting has shed light on a host of issues at the college, including extravagant meals for administrators at the campus’ posh restaurant, Waterleaf.
Investigators — both federal and state — are looking into Breuder’s oversight of the school’s financial matters, among other things.