College of DuPage (ECWd) –
When it comes to the compensation of Community College Trustees (and Library Trustees and Park District Commissioners for that matter) the applicable statutes are very specific on what compensation and benefits are authorized to these elected officials.
Here is the short answer: NONE!
Wow, that’s not hard for the average law-abiding citizen, who is not out to fleece the taxpayers, to understand.
Now we get to the real world of the College of DuPage:
This is a general discussion of benefits and compensation as applied to the various rules, policies, and state laws that apply to COD trustees. Pres. Breuder’s reimbursements and expenses far outweigh any of the below, but this is still a worthy subject to write about.
In the past we have posted reimbursement claims submitted by COD trustees and reimbursed by the college. Specifically, Wozniak and McGuire. There are more when taking into account all of the free Waterleaf dinners, etc. Please note we brought this to light during the fall of 2014 and Trustee Hamilton figured up what she had received and wrote a personal check back to the college. At the time we invited all of the trustees to do likewise, but none accepted the challenge that we are aware of.
This article covers all of the benefits (compensation) provided to trustees including reimbursements, dinners, drinks, MAC tickets, other special event tickets, cases of steaks for Christmas, etc….considerably more than the questionable reimbursement claims.
Community College Act and Trustee Compensation:
(e) Members of the board shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses incurred in connection with their service as members. Compensation, for purposes of this Section, means any salary or other benefits not expressly authorized by this Act to be provided or paid to, for or on behalf of members of the board... [110 ILCS 805/3-7(e)]
This Section defines what would be considered “using public funds for public purpose” as stated in Article VIII, Section 1 of the Illinois Constitution. Any use of public funds for trustees, in violation of the CCA, is a violation of the Constitution and Official Misconduct at the very least. Dinner and drinks at the Waterleaf are not “expressly authorized”, being a “COD ambassador” as McGuire puts it is not expressly authorized, received a case of steaks for Christmas is not expressly authorized, we could go on for days, but I think you get the idea.
What is expressly authorized is “reasonable expenses”, which could be up for interpretation, however, we all know that lunch and dinner meetings are not reasonable because nobody is forcing a trustee to have a meeting with Breuder during meal time. A Whopper with cheese from the Burger King located less than 10 miles from your house, at 7 p.m., is not a reasonable expense.
I specifically remember McGuire saying the CCA required reimbursement for mileage reimbursement, but the CCA does not say that. We can leave that up to smarter people to determine if driving a couple miles to a trustee meeting qualifies as a reasonable expense for reimbursement or not. You can look at all of the other receipts and claims to figure out just how much has been fleeced.
The bottom line when applied to COD. Ask where the Community College Act expressly authorizes this reimbursement prior to submitting the claim. I don’t think you will find any Waterleaf dinners, Chamber of Commerce dinners, or the like in any explicit authorization.
Gift Ban and Prohibited Activities
The consensus here at ECWd is that the “Gift Ban”, or the “Public Officer’s Prohibited Activities Act” in relation to the gift ban, may not apply to College of DuPage Trustees. We believe this to be the case for the reasons that the Community College Act is more strict with defining what a trustee is allowed for compensation and benefits as anything “provided or paid to, for or on behalf of” a trustee. We believe this also applies to Foundation related expenses given or paid to trustees.
Additionally, the Public Community Colleges Act is more recent legislation than the Gift Ban and Prohibited Activities.
For the above two stated reasons, any COD Policy less restrictive than the CCA (for elected officials) is invalid.
IRS Per Diem Rates:
- Per Diem Rate Lookup from the GSA is (here).
- Taxes, Tip, Baggage, etc are included in the calculation for per Diem.
- The generally accepted distance from home for hotel reimbursement is 50 miles.
- You cannot generally claim mileage to and from you home and work locations – however some public elected positions authorize payments and mileage for attending meetings, this is generally specifically stated in the statute covering the public body. See the Counties Code for county board member expenses (here) as an example of legislative intent.
It is also generally understood that any payments received in excess of per Diem rates should be counted as income by the trustee, and since trustees cannot derive income from the college this puts them in an unenviable position.
We are in no way claiming to be experts in IRS rules, but some common sense should apply when seeking reimbursements for expenses.
With that in mind, we suggest once again that all of the current and former trustees who have been recipients of dinners, alcohol, hotels, boxes of steaks, unauthorized mileage, tickets to shows at the MAC, or anything else, that they make a rough calculation and pay the taxpayers of COD back for the monies they received.
They should take the high road and quit playing games with public funds. Not one of them can honestly state that all the dinners, etc were legitimately obtained. I think they knew it at the time but didn’t know how to say no.