College of DuPage Board votes to censure its vice chairman

<p>College of DuPage sign.  |  File photo</p>
College of DuPage | File photo

In an emotion-filled meeting that stretched until almost midnight Thursday, the College of DuPage Board of Trustees voted to censure board Vice Chairman Katherine Hamilton.

Trustee Nancy Svoboda abstained and Kim Savage dissented from the vote that sparked outrage among a roomful of Hamilton’s supporters, some of whom shouted, “shame,” and “shame on you,” before and after the vote.

Board Chair Erin Birt read the entire five-part resolution, most of which dealt with the controversy over a proposed new classroom building for the Glen Ellyn campus.

Birt said that Hamilton’s actions in opposition to the facility were “inappropriate” and “beyond her scope as a trustee.”

The resolution cited Hamilton for having “publicly embarrassed her fellow elected board members and the college administration.”

But beyond mere disrespect, the resolution also charged Hamilton with not being entirely honest, saying that she had voted on March 20 to approve setting aside $33 million for the proposed facility, and had several times voted to approve draft meeting agendas containing the item without comment.

The resolution further charged that Hamilton hadn’t made her opposition clear to anyone on the board before the June 26 board meeting and had even had an email exchange with President Robert Breuder in which she expressed her agreement with him over the proposed facility.

Moreover, the resolution claimed that during a heated exchange at the July 17 board meeting, Hamilton had turned off her microphone and “stated to Chair Birt, ‘what goes around comes around’ and ‘I will get you,’ apparently calculated to intimidate and threaten the chair.”

In response, Hamilton cited her support for district taxpayers, pointing to her votes against not only the new facility but also a tuition increase and budgets and tax levies she felt were unnecessarily high.

“This censure represents the tremendous need for reform on this board,” she said after the vote.

Hamilton also questioned the legality of the the censure even being on the agenda, saying that she hadn’t received notice of it 48 hours before the meeting.

“I will continue to fight for the taxpayer and community,” she said. “I hope going forward that we can work better as a team.”

Before casting the lone dissenting vote, Savage said, “I am very troubled by the situation at hand … we must all be able to work together and the foundation of trust does not exist.”

Savage also said that it was hypocritical of college officials to complain that Hamilton used the media to air her differences over the proposed facility when he believes the college itself had two years earlier negotiated teacher salaries in the press.

The rest of the board voted without comment.

Thursday’s meeting got off to a rocky start, with the board staying in executive session for 25 minutes past its regular starting time. Soon after convening the regular meeting, the board again called for an executive session, which they stayed in for almost an hour.

Shortly after the second executive session began, Hamilton walked out of the room.

“They tossed her,” Dan Kinsella, her attorney, said. “I believe it was an illegal act.”

When the meeting resumed, board members were continually interrupted and laughed at as they spoke and recess was called twice to restore order.

“You have no legal authority to censure her,” Adam Andrzelewski told the board.

“I voted for Kathy,” Naperville resident Cynthia Schneider said. “I feel your censure of her is a censure of me.”

Hamilton found support from other elected officials.

“I find it appalling that we can’t comment on an agenda item before you vote on it,” Downers Grove Trustee David Olson said.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) said she was against the censure.

“That’s completely inappropriate for speaking up on issues that are important to the public,” she said. “That’s what we want public officials to do.”

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