Crime & Courts

COD board files $25M counter lawsuit against former President Robert Breuder

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The College of DuPage Board of Trustees has filed a counter lawsuit against former President Robert Breuder seeking at least $25 million in damages. The suit, filed June 29 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, also seeks punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs. Breuder is seeking more than $2 million in damages in his suit.[]

The College of DuPage Board of Trustees has filed a counter lawsuit against former President Robert Breuder seeking at least $25 million in damages.

The suit, filed June 29 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, also seeks punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs. Breuder is seeking more than $2 million in damages in his suit.

Breuder filed the suit Oct. 21, 2015, the day after he was formally fired 4-1 by the board after it voided a $763,000 severance package for him. The complaint names the board, county and board members Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein, as well as former board member Kathy Hamilton – the four who voted to terminate him.

In the suit against Breuder, the board alleges he "breached his duties to the college in multiple ways, including by placing his own interests above those of the college, by supporting and engaging in reckless spending of college funds, and by destroying evidence."

"As a direct and proximate cause of Breuder’s conduct, the college has been harmed," the suit states. "That harm has resulted in economic and non-economic damages. Those damages include, but are not limited to, the payments the college has made to deal with investigations by the Illinois Auditor General, the Higher Learning Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service. The damage also includes the funds the college did not receive from the State of Illinois as a result of Breuder’s conduct."

The Higher Learning Commission had placed COD on probation for two years in December 2015 after expressing concerns about its integrity and governance. The commission in November 2017 removed COD from probation.

The college has tried to address the commission's concerns by doing such things as requiring all employees to undergo ethics training, converting COD's Waterleaf restaurant into a purely instructional operation and creating a board audit committee. The suit alleges Breuder spent millions of dollars from a referendum "to build, decorate and equip Waterleaf Restaurant and its wine cellar."

In addition, it alleges he and other college employees under his direction charged the college more than $250,000 for lunches and dinners at Waterleaf.

"Ultimately, the IRS concluded that many of those expenditures by Breuder and other college personnel constituted income (and not a justifiable business expense) and required payment of taxes on that income," the suit states. "The college ended up paying those taxes."

The suit also accuses Breuder of deleting electronically stored information on a college-issued iPad, along with squandering "large portions of $550 million dollars [sic] slated to renovate and rebuild the college over the last six years by spending money on projects not associated with the academic mission of the college."

"These vanity projects diverted funds needed to renovate and expand the classrooms and spaces related to the academic mission of the college," the suit states. "He shifted 30 million dollars from the reserve fund, built up from deliberately underspent operational budgets, to build a Teaching and Learning Center. He did so to attempt to 'shake loose' 20 million dollars more in previously promised but undelivered state funding."

The suit also accuses Breuder of interfering with the gathering of materials in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and notes that in September 2014, COD's Faculty Association "overwhelmingly" passed a no confidence resolution calling on the board to seek new leadership for the college.

In April, a U.S. Appellate Court ruled the lawsuit filed by Breuder can continue.

His suit claims he was "deprived of his civil and constitutional rights when defendants wrongfully terminated his employment in violation of his contracts, without due process, and based on false charges of misconduct."

Breuder was president from 2009 to 2015. The board denies he was wrongfully terminated.