Trustees of the College of DuPage voted late Wednesday to reaffirm a deal that will award the school’s controversial president a $762,000 severance package when he retires prematurely next year in March.
The 6-1 vote came during a board meeting attended by hundreds of people, including many who opposed the deal for college President Robert Breuder, who will step down three years before his contract ends in 2019.
Breuder, who has led the college for the last six years, told trustees in a Jan. 20 letter that he came to a decision to retire over the recent Christmas holiday.
“With age comes the inevitable reality that time is precious,” Breuder, who will be 72 when he retires, wrote.
Until that time, he vowed to continue with the “excellence and service deeply embedded in the fabric of our institution.”
During his tenure, Breuder has had his fair share of critics.
Last year, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed an email from Breuder to trustees, imploring them to be nice to then-Gov. Pat Quinn at the college’s commencement ceremonies in hopes Quinn would steer an extra $20 million to the college for a proposed teaching facility. A resulting uproar prompted the publicly funded college to drop its attempt to obtain the money.
On top of that, last September, the college’s Faculty Association issued a vote of no-confidence in Breuder. Association President Glenn Hansen cited an “environment of distrust.”
At the time, board vice chairman Kathy Hamilton said she was hardly surprised. The no-confidence vote “was very predictable, given that Dr. Breuder’s administration was broken,” she said.
Wednesday’s vote on Breuder’s severance was done as an afterthought.
Trustees already had voted 6-1 last week to approve the severance. But school officials were concerned that vote may have violated the Open Meetings Act. And some said that meeting didn’t offer a chance for public input.
So trustees reconvened Wednesday to re-approve the deal, which will pay Breuder nearly three times his base salary when he retires early next year.
Hamilton, who opposed the deal, and others have criticized the buyout package as a waste of taxpayer funds.
School officials, meanwhile, came out in strong support of Breuder.
Included among materials distributed in advance of the meeting was an eight-page, small-type memo highlighting dozens of the college’s accomplishments under Breuder’s tenure.
While outraged citizens packed Wednesday’s meeting, the reaffirmation of the board’s previous decision was likely a fait accompli. The agenda for the meeting even outlined a portion of the meeting that would be dedicated to the approval of “Robert L. Breuder’s employment contract.”
Details of the separation agreement only recently became public. The board, however, had privately discussed Breuder’s departure for the past nine months, according to the memo.
The $762,000 separation agreement is one that “would serve the mutual best interests of the College and Dr. Breuder,” school officials wrote in the memo.
The college also will name its state-of-the art Homeland Security Education Center for Breuder, provided his conduct “is not materially detrimental to the reputation of the Board and/or the College,” the memo states.
Contributing: Associated Press