College of DuPage trustees are scheduled to vote Thursday on a $4 million settlement to a former president who left under a cloud of controversy.
The deal would end a yearlong legal battle between Robert Breuder and the community college board. The school’s insurance carrier will pay the ex-administrator more than four times the amount of his original severance package at the heart of the deal.
Trustees are expected to approve the settlement at a special meeting Thursday in which the agreement is the only item on the agenda.
The college board declared Breuder’s contract void in September 2015 based on the theory that his first extension was approved in April 2009 — four months after he began — by a lame-duck board that knew it was handcuffing incoming trustees with a long-term contract. The trustees insisted that boards in Illinois cannot legally bind future boards to lengthy employment agreements and based that argument on 19th-century case law.
Without a valid contract, the majority of trustees said they were no longer obligated to award Breuder the $763,000 severance package that a prior board had promised in exchange for retiring in March 2016, three years early.
Breuder’s original buyout caused a deep public outcry, and the state passed laws imposing limits on severance packages and requiring heightened transparency for such deals.
A federal judge, however, rejected the legal argument the board used to clawback Breuder’s buyout, making it difficult for the college to defend its actions.
When it fired Breuder in 2015, the board listed eight reasons for the decision, including excessive spending, poor financial oversight and failing to respond to requests made under the state’s open records laws. The school’s accrediting agency later placed the school on probation.
Breuder filed a wrongful termination lawsuit the day after trustees rescinded his severance, alleging breach of contract, defamation and violation of Breuder’s due process rights.
He named the trustees who voted for his termination as defendants in the lawsuit, as well. A proposed agreement released by the college indicates claims and counterclaims between Breuder and former board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi, who is now a state representative, is not included in the settlement.
Attorneys for Breuder, the college and Mazzochi could not immediately be reached for comment.