DuPage Co. (ECWd) –
Could a new mug shot be coming?
The release of the Res Publica invoice now shines light on many serious concerns with former Chairman Erin Birt as well as the rest of those involved with what appears to be a clear case of misapplication of funds once again.
One note of interest, as referenced in the last US Bank article, was the involvement of Jordan Matyas– Son-in-law of House Speaker Mike Madigan, (Senior Consultant for Res Publica Group!) (First coverage of this in US Bank part 7).
The billing on the invoices reflect Mr. Matyas was responsible for the highest billing of all those involved costing the taxpayers over $18,000.00 for his services.
Erin Birt ran a close second with approximately $10,000 in billing tied directly to her. Of serous concern is the fact many of these charges occurred prior to the board’s approval of the PR firm on March 20th. All indications are this was nothing but a “Fee Fest” for those involved.
During the most recent COD special meeting, Trustee McGuire reported that Erin Birt was the only trustee that knew of the hiring of this PR firm. Considering her name is plastered throughout the billing invoice, she was deeply involved in it and kept that from the rest of the board.
I find that to be extremely hypocritical of her considering the comments she directed at Chairman Hamilton during a recent meeting. Birt was upset that an item on the agenda, open to the public, was the hiring of a law firm that had represented Ms. Hamilton in the past. Amazing how Birt can attack the open process, all while being directly involved in secret discussions with a PR firm that is charging thousands on the backs of the taxpayers and never sharing that fact with any board members until long after the work was done.
The idea has been raised in the past that the Foundation and the College operate as one big intertwined operation; no separation or demarcation at all. Oh how true this turns out to be!
The Res Publica Invoice entries of 3/2, 3/3, and 3/12 highlight that premise loud and clear. These invoice entries all focus on developing favorable and positive PR for the FOUNDATION, yet it is the College’s lawyer, the College’s President, the College’s former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Erin Birt, and the College’s money, paying for strategy to defend and improve the image of the Foundation. The Chicago Tribune could make a lot of hay with that argument in their FOIA suit.
Since the College President works for the College, the College’s lawyer works for the College, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees is the top public official for the College, and taxpayer dollars allocated to the College are at stake here and should be used exclusively for the College and not the foundation, another argument that comes to mind is that the actions of these college employees to help the Foundation is ultra vires.
Bottom line, if these issues were so important to the Foundation then the Foundation should pay these particular invoice entries…not the College. Or if you prefer the Ultra Vires theory, then College of DuPage might want to consider asking Dr. Breuder and Erin Birt to pay certain of these costs themselves.
What really mucks my analysis up though is the fact that the BOT approved this effort of Res Publica on an after-the-fact basis. But I would submit that if the original act was ultra vires, then no amount of subsequent BOT approval on this topic is legit either. As we have said in the past, you can’t un-rob a bank!
Additional misapplication of funds is Birt’s use of a PR firm to be involved in responding to FOIA requests. There is nothing in any statute that authorizes public funds to be used for a PR firm to review or be involved in a request for public records. It is clear these people were doing all they could to manipulate the process and keep things secret from the public.
I would love to know, as I am sure the public would, how is it that a PR firm is calling council to discuss Board “votes” three days before there are any votes taken? Who was really running things at that point? (See billing for 3/16/2015)
I think the most interesting issue now disclosed is the once “blurred lines” between COD and the Foundation are no longer blurred. That coupled with the ultra vires argument, these official have some explaining to do and I argue some money to pay back to the college. I believe those issues have the most merit and significance, and on those points, I think the new BOT is doing a very impressive job to right the ship at COD.
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