In an effort to gain a full and comprehensive understanding into the financial activity surrounding the College of DuPage (COD) since 2011, State Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) has amended a House Resolution filed last month to deepen the scope of an investigation by the Illinois Auditor General.

The original resolution, HR55, was filed in response to the COD Trustees’ decision last month to approve a $763,000 contract buyout deal for its current College President Robert Breuder, who will leave is post later this year.

“Those who pay taxes to the College of DuPage were outraged by the reckless decision to provide President Breuder with a $763,000 golden parachute deal on his way out the door,” said Ives. “House Resolution 55 asks the Illinois Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the College of DuPage for fiscal years 2011-2014, and the amendment I filed this week adds depth to the areas that can be investigated.”

The Illinois Constitution limits the Auditor General’s audit authority only to public funds appropriated or authorized by the General Assembly, and Ives, along with several of the resolution’s other 57 sponsors, felt the scope of the audit needed to be broadened. The amendatory language filed by Ives this week asks the Auditor General to utilize the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, which would allow him to contract with the College of DuPage to increase the scope of the audit. The new language asks COD to pay for the cost of the audit.

“If the College of DuPage Trustees have nothing to hide they should have no problem partnering with the Illinois Auditor General on a full and comprehensive audit,” Ives said. “In light of the board’s recent poor decisions, the taxpayers who fund the College deserve a thorough audit into how their tax dollars are actually being spent.”

According to the amendatory language in HR55, the audit is to include, but does not have be limited to, the following determinations for the years 2011-2014:
  • The College of DuPage’s sources of revenues
  • College expenditures, by broad category
  • Whether the Board is carrying out its responsibilities required by Board policy
  • Whether the Board is meeting its fiduciary responsibilities and ensuring compliance with the Public Community College Act and Board Policies
  • Whether the compensation and severance packages provided to the COD President are comparable to compensation and severance packages provided to Presidents of other Illinois Community Colleges
  • Whether changes to the College President’s compensation package were properly approved
“When the COD Trustees made that sweetheart deal with Breuder, they triggered a public outcry over the manner in which they make decisions with taxpayer resources,” Ives said. “This detailed audit is an appropriate legislative response and I look forward to reading the final report.”
Following Governor Bruce Rauner's Budget Address on February 18, State Representative Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) issued the following statement:

"With the release of his 2016 budget priorities and proposed list of spending cuts that are both pragmatic and compassionate, Governor Rauner is demonstrating the type of bold leadership that won him the support of Illinoisans during his campaign. After over a decade of bad fiscal policy and practices, our Governor is stating loud and clear that it is time to re-establish fundamental principles; that it is time to apply common sense to our spending, and implement reforms to strengthen our educational system, our communities, and our economic vitality. These proposals are a good first step towards moving our state towards opportunity and prosperity."

With constituents stinging from the recent severance agreement negotiated by the College of DuPage Board, area House Republican lawmakers stepped up with a range of proposals all aimed at the same goal, preventing these types of “golden parachutes” in the future.

DuPage Republican Jeanne Ives (R, Wheaton), an outspoken critic of the college board, led off the press conference stressing the intensity of her constituents over the matter. “It’s distressing to again be forced to look to setting parameters on local government, but the fact of the matter is that the people of our area are demanding action,” stated Ives. ”We can’t sit silently by without bringing solutions to the table.”

Legislation ranging from capping severance payouts to enhanced public review was thrown out as possible items to prevent such flagrant abuses. Two newly elected neighboring lawmakers, Mark Batinick (R, Plainfield) and Grant Wehrli (R, Naperville), are both eyeing electoral remedies aimed at counteracting the lengthy six-year terms of many local public bodies.

Specifically, Wherli is looking to reduce the length of those terms to four years. “Shortening their terms seems completely reasonable, increasing accountability in these down ballot, low profile races.”

A Batinick proposal, who has been working through a recall provision of all non-home rule entities, strikes a chord both in this situation as well as towards the local park board for which the legislation was originally intended. “Locally, we had a board that has spun out of control, and clearly this situation seems to fit within those same set of concerns,” stated Batinick.

Similarly, the newly elected Will County Republican and former corporate lawyer Margo McDermed (R, Mokena) picked up an initiative of her predecessor and quickly realized the relevance of the initiative towards this particular situation. “The bill here was aimed at the 2013 Metra scandal looking to apply the FOIA act to any severance agreements that include public funds. Once again, we see transparency for severance agreements is still needed in Illinois," McDermed said.

Two other attorneys-turned-lawmakers are both looking to directly target the contracts themselves, with different focuses. Freshman lawmaker Peter Breen, (R, Lombard) is proposing what he calls the "Breuder Rule," which would forbid future severance agreements from exceeding one year’s salary and benefits. For current severance agreements of over one year's salary, the Breuder Rule would prohibit college boards from raising property taxes and tuition for the same number of years as the number of years' severance paid out.

“We need to cut this problem off at the source by capping future severance agreements for local government in Illinois,” stated Breen. “While we can't alter current agreements, we can make sure that homeowners and students don't pay for the poor decisions of community college boards. If these board members agree to extravagant golden parachutes, they can figure out how to pay them without putting the burden on our overtaxed homeowners and hardworking students."

Ron Sandack (R, Downers Grove), the Republican Floor Leader and a veteran of both chambers, will be proposing a state-focused approach by preserving local control while imposing harsh state financial deterrents in the event of large payouts.

“If these local boards proceed, there should be consequences to their state funding. It should be reduced dollar for dollar,” stated Sandack. “I don’t like the idea of tying the hands of duly elected local officials, but I have to say I’m inclined to believe they’d be far less likely to engage in these agreements if there’s a measured financial punishment equal to the payout of the agreement itself.”