Over the past 16 months, the College of DuPage has paid more than $26 million without the board of trustees knowing specifically how the money was spent.
That’s because of a long-standing board policy that allows administrators to pay bills of less than $15,000 without providing itemized reports.
The records also showed instances where multiple checks were issued to the same vendor in a month in totals that exceeded the $15,000 threshold.
The unitemized spending adds up to more than $1 million a month, according to the reports. While some of the bills are generated by board-approved contracts, others are paid with petty cash funds.
During COD’s most recent fiscal year that ended in June, roughly 12 percent of the college’s $160 million spending — more than $18 million — went without scrutiny or oversight by the board, which has as its chief responsibility stewardship of the college’s finances.
Board Chairwoman Erin Birt said it’s “not the inclination of the majority of the board to change the board’s policy” regarding the reporting of expenditures.
“We have a board treasurer that we approve each year, an internal auditor and an external auditor, and we haven’t had any issues so far,” Birt said.
Tom Glaser, the college’s senior vice president of administration and its treasurer, said audits of COD’s spending procedures are “clean.”
But the practice has raised the ire of at least one board member and the eyebrows of government accountability advocates.
“Although it may be technically allowed for individual payments of less than $15,000 to not be reviewed by the governing board, if a pattern emerges whereby in a consistent manner payments in excess of $15,000 are being accumulated by one vendor … then the spirit of fiscal oversight and good government would require review by the full board or certainly the audit committee,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based Civic Federation, a government finance research organization. “There is little harm in having the board review or approve expenditures that end up representing a significant portion of the budget.”
Officials at Elgin Community College, Harper College in Palatine, McHenry County College, Oakton Community College in Des Plaines and Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove said the elected boards at those colleges receive itemized reports for all spending each month.
“You want to see this because if you see something out of line … you get a chance to ask questions about it,” said ECC board member Art Sauceda, who is an accountant. “Sure, there are some purchases that don’t require board approval, but at least we get a chance to see what goes on and ask questions.”
At the College of Lake County in Grayslake, the board doesn’t see itemized financial reporting but is alerted to expenditures of more than $5,000. Board Chairwoman Amanda Howland said that’s been the policy since before her election and it might be time to re-examine it.
However, she added, “I don’t think things are slipping by. We get volumes of financial reports.”
COD’s spending policy came to light after Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the government finance watchdog group For The Good of Illinois and the transparency website OpenTheBooks.com, filed a public records request for itemized spending reports.
He and COD board Vice Chairman Kathy Hamilton want all itemized spending reported to the board each month.
“The board doesn’t know what it’s approving,” said Hamilton, an accountant. “The fact is, we don’t get any information about what’s going through there.”
Andrzejewski released a 508-page report detailing the 21,730 individual payments made without board scrutiny between April 2013 and August 2014 on his website. He chided the board for not maintaining complete oversight of the college’s finances.
“In Illinois, corruption hides in dark corners,” he said. “At a minimum, elected trustees have a duty to provide open, honest and transparent governance. COD trustees must start simply doing their job.”
Sodexo, AT&T, Office Depot, Hewlett-Packard, Stiver Staffing Services and the Daily Herald are among several vendors that received more than $15,000 a month but in increments below the threshold that required itemized reporting to the board. Some companies received more than $300,000 over the course of the 16 months that was not submitted for board approval. The Daily Herald and its parent company, Paddock Publications, received about $151,000 from the college during that time, mainly for advertising, according to the documents.
College officials said detailed spending will be provided at the board’s meeting Sept. 25 at Hamilton’s behest, but it’s unclear if that will continue into the future.
“We’re happy to show them individual payments,” said Glaser, the board’s treasurer. “We’re following board policy and (that policy states) they don’t want to see payments of $15,000 or less. If Kathy Hamilton wants to introduce an amendment that requires every payment to go to the board, she can do that.”
Hamilton said she has not introduced such an amendment because that’s a decision board members should make together. That’s why she asked for the report to be included in the information the board is presented this month, she said.
“I want to have a discussion with the board whether we should start seeing these,” she said. “At the last board meeting, I kicked off this conversation and it’s obviously created a firestorm. I intend to bring forward a resolution to open up public payments to school vendors and employees.”
Hamilton has been at odds with the administration essentially since she was elected last year and was recently censured by the board for “inappropriate conduct.”
She said the censure was in retaliation for her speaking out against the college’s spending practices and claims the report the college provided Andrzejewski backs up her claims. She said the board policy states that any checks of more than $15,000 “shall require individual approval by the board of trustees.” According to the report sent to Andrzejewski, 105 checks were cut to various vendors in excess of $15,000 without board approval.
“Those are only because we consolidate checks instead of writing (multiple) checks in a month. It’s more efficient,” Glaser said. “The individual invoices are under $15,000.”
Andrzejewski said his goal and that of For The Good of Illinois is to “pioneer a model of open data, citizen engagement and media coverage to squeeze out corrupt practices.
“Since COD is my local community college, I chose them for examination,” he said. “It’s been a bit more work than we expected, but we’re proud of our early successes to hold them accountable.”
Glaser said each payment that isn’t approved by the board still has to be vetted by multiple department heads and the college’s internal auditor.
Glaser said even nearly $5,000 spent at a Dundee-based hunting club by College President Robert Breuder as part of his compensation package was approved by the college’s internal auditor.
“We have nothing to hide here,” Glaser said. “We have clean audits. There’s nothing wrong going on here.”
Lois Lerner is quite possibly one of the most unpopular people in America right along with Barack Obama, and after this latest scandal blowing up across the Internet, her fan base might go from a few to none rather quickly.
During her time at the IRS, presumably before she started massively targeting conservative non-profit groups for audit, Lerner was helping the Muslim Brotherhood front groups establish themselves right here in America.
Documents have surfaced which indicate that Lerner granted 501 (c)(3) status to several Muslim groups that have direct connections to the Muslim Brotherhood back in 2005.
According to Shoebat.Com, Lerner approved the Hamzah Islamic Center for tax exempt status. Two members of the HIC’s board, Tareef Saeb and Emad Hamid crafted a paper on instructions for starting a mosque in America and getting approved to be a 501 (c)(3) organization.
In this paper, individuals looking to start up a mosque are encouraged to reach out to the Muslim Community Association, which is also a tax exempt organization, but it just so happens they are connected to Obama’s pals in the Muslim Brotherhood
The MCA takes some of its cues regarding Muslim holidays from the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization that openly claims to be part of the Global Muslim Brotherhood.
Also within the pages of the HIC document, there is information given on the role of an imam where the authors cite the All Dulles Area Muslim Society as having the perfect model to follow for teachers in the mosque.
Since the HIC is connected with two major Muslim Brotherhood groups, it’s pretty safe to draw the conclusion that they agree with much of what the organization teaches and stands for.
This means that there are radical Islamic groups getting tax exempt status to spread their religion of hate and indoctrinate a new generation of jihadists, right here on American soil.
What’s worse is the HIC has a history of helping radical terrorists in the Middle East, going so far as to raise funds for Syrian fighters engaging in holy war.
By Lerner approving these groups, who had known connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, she has committed an act of treason by aiding the enemy. It’s time for her to be arrested. Now.
Click here to read about the latest IRS scandal involving Lois Lerner and other Obama cronies.
She has not only violated the rights of individuals seeking to express their political opinion by forming tax exempt groups, but has gone far out of her way to help terrorists infiltrate the U.S. This must stop, which is why Americans need to stand up now and demand that Lois Lerner be brought to justice.
Illinois is looking to force unwilling homeowners, like Will County board member Judy Ogalla, to sell their land.
Photo: Stephen J. Serio
After years of dealing with willing sellers and absentee owners to buy land for a proposed airport near Peotone, the state of Illinois is preparing legal action to force unwilling homeowners to sell, even though it’s still an open question whether the project ever will get off the ground.
Decades after it was first envisioned, the South Suburban Airport is a top priority for Gov. Pat Quinn and supporters who view it as an economic engine for the area.
But the project still lacks final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, and experts recently solicited by the Quinn administration raised serious questions about the state’s plan, saying it needs a
longer runway to attract cargo carriers. It also has become an issue in the governor’s race, with GOP challenger Bruce Rauner saying he’s skeptical a new airport even is needed.
Having spent almost $86 million since 2001, the state still must buy more than a third of the 5,800 acres needed for a basic one-runway facility, which it hopes to expand someday to 20,000 acres. The state previously has focused on willing sellers, filing just 17 condemnation cases involving mostly absentee landowners or sellers who were looking for a better price.
The state has 11 pending condemnation cases and is preparing 13 more for filing, according to a Sept. 2 summary by the Department of Transportation, obtained by Crain’s.
“Most folks would rather see an airport approved before they begin negotiations to sell property,” says Stephen Viz, an eminent domain attorney at Chicago law firm Figliulo & Silverman PC who has several clients in the Peotone area. “What happens if it isn’t built?” If Mr. Rauner wins, “you don’t know what a new administration’s priorities are going to be.”
The FAA doesn’t require the state to buy the land before the airport is approved, but here’s the problem: With federal funds scarce and Illinois finances up against a wall, the state needs private-sector financing of some sort. However, investors won’t pay serious attention to the project until all or most of the land has been acquired.
“It’s beyond imagination that a private developer would have the patience to wait out a land-acquisition process that could take years,” says Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation expert and director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.
For some sellers, a condemnation proceeding was the best way to clear up ownership and boundary questions, given that homes and farms in the area have been handed down for several generations.
Now it’s the only way left for the state to acquire land from those who don’t want the airport and who just don’t want to sell.
“Our intention is to fight it tooth and nail,” says Judy Ogalla, a longtime opponent of the airport project and a Republican member of the Will County board. She and her husband, Robert, have lived for 28 years on a 160-acre, family-owned farm that sits less than a mile west of where the 9,500-foot runway would go. “There’s kind of a burned-out feeling, but people are still opposed.”
Opponents’ hopes of fighting off condemnation may rest on the argument that the state can’t acquire property because the FAA hasn’t approved the plan. But one Will County judge already has rejected that contention in a case involving investor-owned farmland.
That client chose not to appeal, according to his lawyer, Bill Ryan of Rosemont law firm Ryan & Ryan. But Mr. Ryan plans to raise the issue again in two other pending cases, arguing this time on constitutional grounds that the state can’t condemn property until it’s necessary for a project.
The governor held a photo opportunity last month at Bult Field, which the state purchased for $34 million after reaching an agreement with the owner, a wealthy local aviation enthusiast. The 288-acre private airstrip is within the proposed airport’s initial boundaries.
On Sept. 23, IDOT officials are making a public presentation and holding private meetings with investors, airport developers and others to gather ideas on public-private partnerships or other alternatives to taxpayer funding. An IDOT spokesman declines to identify the participants but says they include “some firms that are internationally known.”
“We’re going to participate in the process, having spent six years in the process already,” says David Sigman, executive vice president of LCOR Inc., a real estate developer in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
A single runway and associated facilities would cost nearly $400 million, not counting the cost of land, according to a rough estimate by Mr. Sigman.
LCOR backed the airport plan of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Chicago, who almost singlehandedly pushed the idea for many years and feuded with Will County. The state took control of the project last year, around the time Mr. Jackson went to prison for misuse of campaign funds.
It remains to be seen whether other investors are ready to put money into the plan.
Airport privatization expert Robert Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, a free-market think tank in Los Angeles, says “Peotone never came up” at two airport industry conferences on public-private partnerships he has attended in the past two years. “A number of potential projects were talked about—overseas, San Juan—but not a word about Peotone.”