Rauner signs law shining light on government golden parachutes
The new law is designed to expose severance agreements like the one given to controversial College of DuPage President Robert Breuder.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Sept. 10 signed legislation making taxpayer-funded severance agreements more transparent. His action comes on the heels of public outcry in the wake of College of DuPage President Robert Breuder receiving a $763,000 severance package in exchange for retiring early.
The new law subjects all severance agreements funded entirely or partially by public dollars to the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
Controversy surrounding Breuder involved an accounting scheme used to hide millions of dollars in spending, including payments to businesses connected to college leadership, satellite phones used for Breuder’s exotic hunting trips, his membership to a private shooting club and nearly a quarter of a million dollars in booze listed on ledger lines as “instructional supplies.”
The Chicago Tribune revealed Breuder and college leadership charged taxpayers nearly $190,000 in dining fees at the college’s high-end restaurant, Waterleaf, since 2011.
This was not the only piece of legislation emerging from the Breuder controversy, nor is it the only reform that should be made.
An even stronger taxpayer-protection bill aimed at community college presidents also sits on the governor’s desk. It would cap severance payments at one year’s salary and benefits and limit standard contracts to four years. More importantly, it would also require public notice and approval of any new, amended or renewed employment deals.
The College of DuPage board repeatedly gave Breuder contract extensions and additional perks without public notice over the last six years, according to the Chicago Tribune. Requiring college boards to make a proposed contract public before voting on it is a commonsense reform to shield state and local taxpayers from deals like Breuder’s.
While there’s more work to be done, Rauner’s actions are an encouraging first step toward needed transparency.