GLEN ELLYN – The College of DuPage Board of Trustees on Thursday approved hiring a Chicago-based public relations firm to help disseminate information.
The contract will be between Res Publica Group and the college's law firm, Franczek Radelet. College attorney Respicio Vazquez said the public relations firm will charge $250 per hour. The firm began work for the school March 1. College Director of Communications Joe Moore could not immediately explain how the public relations firm could move forward with work without the board's contract approval.
Vazquez said some of the work being done by the public relations firm will touch on legal issues, which is why the contract is being conducted through the college's lawyers. He said the public relations firm will submit invoices to the legal firm. The invoices will then go to the board for approval.
No invoices have been submitted yet, but Vazquez said the first could come as early as next month.
According to board documents, trustees considered hiring a public relations firm because the past few months have brought about "increased media and public interest on various topics."
Recent events involving the college include the approval of a $762,000 buyout for President Robert Breuder, the arrest of a former employee on charges of fraud from the school's radio station and the board's refusal thus far to accept the terms of an audit by the Illinois auditor general.
Vice Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton said the approval was a "sneaky way to get a slick P.R. firm" to misinform the public.
Chairwoman Erin Birt said Hamilton is "misrepresenting the facts" related to the contract.
"I think it's clear that there is need for a P.R. firm to help the public understand what the true facts are," Birt said.
Hamilton requested the board put a cap on the amount the public relations firm can bill each month. Trustee Dianne McGuire disagreed.
"I think we should have their services as needed," she said.
The contract was approved 6-1 with Hamilton dissenting.
Members of the public expressed concern about the hiring of the firm.
College district resident Laura Reigel said she wanted the board to reconsider. She said the college already has a public relations department, including an administrative official who oversees all public relations for the college.
Hiring an outside firm, she said, was a waste of money.
"It is just in essence … a blank check to a P.R. office," she said.
Kirk Allen, of the Edgar County Watchdogs, was curious how the board's attorneys could enter into a contract.
"Under what authority does the legal counsel for this body have to hire a P.R. firm?" he said.
John Kraft, also of the Edgar County Watchdogs, said he believes the contract was arranged with the attorneys to hide information from the public.
"I believe you're trying to claim attorney-client privilege on all the documents … you will provide to the P.R. firm," Kraft said.
College faculty association President Glenn Hansen said the hiring of the public relations firm is a move that comes "a year too late" to protect the board and college.
"I seriously don't think they can protect you from yourself," he said.
Breuder was not in attendance at the meeting. It is the second consecutive meeting he has missed. Moore said he did not know why Breuder was not at Thursday's meeting, and said he could not comment on his absence from the meeting in February.