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Judge orders College of DuPage meeting moved to large venue
Hours before the College of DuPage board of trustees is expected to vote on a controversial buyout package for its president, a DuPage County judge on Wednesday morning ordered that the meeting be moved to a larger venue to accommodate an expected crowd.The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by an Elmhurst-based watchdog group, which sought to move Wednesday night's special session to a larger space "convenient and open to the public" as required by the state's open meetings laws. The group said it anticipates a large crowd at the meeting, since President Robert Breuder's severance package has sparked widespread criticism.The publicly elected board, which approved the $763,000 buyout package with a 6-1 vote last week, is expected tonight to vote again on the agreement to clarify a procedural error. Under last week's deal, Breuder said he would retire March 2016 instead of when his contract ended in 2019."Under the circumstances, the present set up ... is not sufficient to comply with the Open Meetings Act," Judge Bonnie Wheaton said. Wednesday's 7 p.m. meeting was to take place in a room that accommodated 30 people; instead, it will be in the large, open space in the Student Services Center that can accommodate several hundred.The meeting redo – to "clarify a procedural motion" to approve the contract "addendum" with Breuder -- suggests that there was a problem with how officials handled it last week. Watchdog groups have claimed last week's meeting did not comply with the Open Meetings Act because details of the agreement were not made public before or during the meeting. The agreement has also sparked criticism for the size of the buyout package."We feel great about" the meeting being moved, said Adam Andrzejewski, the founder of the watchdog group For the Good of Illinois, which filed the lawsuit along with The Edgar County Watchdogs, a downstate taxpayer advocacy group. "Everybody will be able to see and participate in the meeting in one room."Breuder attended the court hearing but declined to comment on the decision or the vote tonight. College attorney Kenneth Florey opposed the attempt to move the meeting, saying the watchdog groups were "crying wolf" in an attempt to "shut down the College of DuPage."Following the decision, Florey said the new location "provides the access the judge required without inconveniencing the public." Microphones and recording equipment will be set up in the space. There are no limits on how many members of the public can speak, and each can talk for up to three minutes, according to college policy.Andrzejewski said he expects that many people will ask to speak."We know excitement is at a peak and I anticipate hundreds of people to maximize their right to deliver their three minute public comments," he said. Last week's meeting was held in a small board room, and many of the seats were reserved for college employees.The board last week approved the severance agreement without publicly releasing the terms until after the vote. It also refused to release them during the meeting.The Tribune had obtained a draft of the severance package before the meeting and published the details, including that Breuder will get a lump sum payout when he retires on March 31, 2016, and that the school's Homeland Security Education Center will be named for him.The only action item on the agenda for Wednesday night's meeting is to approve the contract addendum. This time, though, the item includes details of the agreement as well as other supporting materials, such as a retirement letter from Breuder.Under a recent binding opinion from the Illinois attorney general's office, the state's open meetings laws require that such details are made public before a vote. At the board meeting last week, the trustees did not publicly read the terms of the contract change before the vote and did not publicly release the terms of Breuder's deal until about an hour after the vote.sstclair@tribpub.comjscohen@tribpub.comTwitter @stacystclairTwitter @higherednews

Source Link:   chicagotribune

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