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Crime & Courts

Illinois appellate court orders College of DuPage Foundation to disclose federal subpoena

An Illinois appellate court on May 9 ordered that the College of DuPage Foundation disclose a federal subpoena the Chicago Tribune requested as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.

The court upheld the 2016 circuit court ruling that COD had contracted with the foundation to perform a governmental function on its behalf and that the subpoena was directly related to that governmental function. Established as a nonprofit charitable organization in 1967, the College of DuPage Foundation raises monetary and in-kind gifts to increase access to education and to enhance cultural opportunities for the surrounding community, according to its website.

"We reject the college's contention that it is powerless to obtain the subpoena, as doing so would have required minimal effort due to the extreme degree to which the college is entwined with the foundation," Appellate Justice Robert Spence stated in the 27-page ruling.

In a statement about the appellate court ruling, COD officials said they are weighing what action to take next.

"Recognizing that it was creating new law, the Illinois Appellate Court has held that the College of DuPage must produce a 2015 document that is in the custody of the College of DuPage Foundation," the statement said. "While respecting the court’s ruling, the College of DuPage remains confident in the arguments it has presented and is currently assessing possible next steps in this litigation, particularly given a case presently pending before the Illinois Supreme Court."

COD Board of Trustees Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi said both the college and the COD Foundation have conducted a thorough review of their leadership and begun the process of improving internal practices to bring about improved transparency and accountability.

“For two years now, we have been working very hard at College of DuPage to embrace accountability and to adopt an advancement model that better serves the college and its constituents,” Mazzochi said in a statement. “New leaders within both College of DuPage and the College of DuPage Foundation have sought to improve internal practices and to establish safeguards that will help avoid these types of disputes in the future. We want to make sure that the issues that caused the Tribune FOIA request and lawsuit – all of which arose during the previous college administration – do not occur again.”

Sherman Neal, the president of the COD Foundation Board of Directors, said in the statement the board was "disappointed the court of appeals disregarded our all-volunteer board when deciding who controls the Foundation."

"For the past two years, the COD Foundation Board of Directors has been working with the leadership of the College and the Foundation administration in developing a new and refreshed relationship and has already adopted several best practices to help College of DuPage students and strengthen the connection with our donors, alumni and friends," Neal said in the statement.

As part of this approach, COD and the foundation have been working on drafting a new agreement governing their relationship. According to a Chicago Tribune report, former COD President Robert Breuder spent more than $102,000 of the foundation's money from 2010 to 2014.

Included in the total is $57,597 spent at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, a private club for hunting, fishing and land management in Dundee Township, the report stated. One outing in March 2014 for Breuder and three guests to eat and hunt rang up a total bill of $1,292 – all expensed to the foundation, according to the report.

Breuder, in a newsletter in October 2014, said the club membership, paid for jointly by the foundation and college, funded meetings and fundraising events "for the primary purpose of raising money and developing friendships that can benefit COD," the report stated.

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