After the Presidential Forum with David Sam on Wednesday, April 20, College of DuPage Trustee Joseph Wozniak sat down with Courier News Editor Lucas Koprowski to talk about his opinions on the Presidential Search Committee, David Olsen’s appointment and how the community should be looking into how much money the college spends on law firms. Wozniak has been on the board since 2007. He had previously stated that the presidential search committee is, “…a flawed process and a flawed committee,” to the Daily Herald.
Why did you choose not to endorse any of the candidates?
Well, because of the fact that this committee, in my opinion, is the most untransparent committee you can ever imagine having in a presidential search committee. Now, I’m the only one right now who’s been on the board during a presidential search. Before, during my first term when we did a presidential search, the whole board was involved. So far only two members of this board, both on the Clean Slate by the way, are involved with this committee. Out of an 18 to 19-person committee, whatever it is, it’s really not that good. It’s too big of a committee. There’s too many people involved. I mean we don’t need the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker on the committee making all of these decisions. This should be a board decision, and it’s not.
How would you change the process of the presidential selection?
By getting the board more involved. Because like I said, there’s only two members on the board on this committee. I heard once before somebody said that we refused to be on the committee, you know our technical half of the board. Not true, we were never asked. I was never asked, Diane McGuire was never asked and Erin Birt was never asked. In fact, I even told Kathy Hamilton last year when she was forming this committee that I wanted to be on it. Nothing happened to it, and I’m not on it. Nothing ever happened with it. She told me that she had to ask Frank Napolitano at the time if he would step down. Well, I don’t know if she ever did or she didn’t, but he never stepped down, and I’m not there. I’m the only one who’s been through a presidential search.
Would you want the whole board to be a part of the search?
Absolutely. I think the whole board should be a part of it because one of the main duties of a trustee, and we are publically elected trustees at COD, is to hire and fire the president. That’s one of our main duties, and so far that duty has been taken away from us due to this committee because of Hamilton and her micromanagement. She’s a big micromanager. That’s even what the HLC said, you know the Higher Learning Commission? That’s what even they said about it, that she is a big micromanager.
If you were to alter the committee, would you keep the community members on it?
I would probably get rid of a lot of them on the committee, because like I said there is too many on there, and there aren’t enough people from the board on there. Back when we did it in my first term, the majority of the committee was us. We were the committee. The board was the committee. We talked to the people. They said that there was nearly 400 applicants who applied for president here at the college. Whether that’s true or that’s not true, I have no idea, because I’ve never seen any of the resumes. Back when we did the presidential search, there was maybe 12 or 14 people who applied for president of COD. There’s a big difference between that and nearly 400 people. I think that this whole thing is the most untransparent presidential search process I’ve ever seen in my life.
Do you have any problems with specific members of the committee?
Well I don’t like that both members from the board on the committee are on the Clean Slate. That’s a totally one-sided committee for me. Not to mention Hamilton first started this committee, and, like I said, had been the micromanager of the board. Now, of course, she’s gone, and it’s basically up in the air to whatever process they came up with.
What about people who aren’t part of the board that are also on the committee?
I think it’s too broad of a spectrum that they have for people on the committee. Like I said, you don’t need the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker on the committee, and that’s what we got here. I mean, if you want to have a couple of people from the college, fine. If you want to have a smaller group of people, that’s even better. Keep in mind that these are not elected trustees or elected members of the public that are on this committee except for Jeanne Ives. Shes a state representative, and I don’t even like that she’s on the committee, because she the one that harassed us about Robert Miller, who was the veteran that they wanted to have that building named after.
The only reason I was against that is because that building is not settled yet with Dr. (Robert) Breuder’s name. That’s the only reason. What I heard from her at the meeting, you know she was speaking at the meeting, she was saying that the college should dedicate something to Robert Miller. I found out later that he wasn’t even a member of COD. He was never a student here, and he was born and raised in Wheaton, and he was never even recognized at Wheaton for it. So I don’t even like that she’s been on this committee.
There were 17 members of the committee initially, and then three dropped. Since those three dropped, did you ever think to see if you could replace one of those positions?
I did ask. That’s when I asked Hamilton. She never did anything with it. I didn’t ask her until, like you said, when a couple of people dropped out. Back then she was actually chairman of the committee, which was improper by the way. And then she had that other guy, Lee Daniels, who was the former speaker of the Illinois house, to be the chairman of the committee right now.
Are you okay with him being the chairman of the committee, or do you think it should be someone else?
Well I think he was tainted by her. I mean, I know Lee Daniels. My dad knows Lee Daniels. My dad is a committeeman, and he was on the DuPage County regional school board before Darlene Ruscitti, and he knows Lee Daniels very well. So do I. But I think that he was actually tainted by Kathy because of him in the position that he was put in on the committee by her. This whole committee was something that she set up. This is all her idea.
Did you ever get to see the applications for president?
No. I asked for them. Diane asked for them. Erin asked for them. We can’t get anything from them. I’m thinking, what if the three people that they picked, I mean I’m not saying that David Sam isn’t a good person to pick for president, but maybe the other two. I mean who says we want the other two. Out of nearly 400 applicants, there’s a lot of people to go through. Who says those three names are the ones that we want? We may want somebody else. In your opinion, wouldn’t a 7-0 vote from the board be the perfect vote for a president?
What are your opinions of the final three candidates?
Well, like I said, I know David Sam. He’s a good man to work with. I known him from ICCTA (Illinois Community College Trustees Association) for I don’t know how many years. Probably almost nine years ago actually. I don’t know the other two women who are up that the committee picked. I can’t speak about them, but I know David Sam.
Do you think that experience in general is adequate for the positions?
I think David Sam has a lot of good experience. He’s president of Elgin Community College right now. Not only that, but he knows about COD. He’s been here as a faculty member, and he knows about the college. I like people who at least know about COD. As far as I know, those other two women don’t know anything about COD. They just applied for the job like you would for any kind of job. Whether they know about it or not. To me, it’s always good when somebody knows about the college. They know about the atmosphere here. They know what people expect. They know about the college as a whole. That’s always a plus in my book.
If you were to choose between the three candidates, would you choose David Sam?
I think I would, but I don’t like this whole committee process. I mean this committee is the most untransparent committee they they ever came up with the idea for, and it took someone like Kathy Hamilton to do it.
Deanne Mazzochi is currently the Acting Interim of the board, correct?
Yea, I think she sort of appointed herself to that position.
Who would you want to see as chairwoman or chairman, once the vote comes?
Well, Erin Birt was chairman before. I would actually like to be vice chairman myself. I wouldn’t want to be chairman right now, because I’m not as good at speaking as I could be. I think I would like to see Erin back as chairman, but I don’t think she would want the job as chairman. If not her, maybe Diane (McGuire).
Why don’t you think Erin would want the position back?
Well because she took a lot of hits back when she was chairman two years ago. I mean they really gave her a lot of garbage while being chairman. Not to mention it took a lot of time away from her family. She’s even told me that. And her business, she’s a lawyer with her own law firm.
What was the reasoning behind you, McGuire and Birt not going to meetings after Kathy Hamilton resigned?
I guess mostly to send a message to the board. There was basically a 3-3 split board back then. The Clean Slate versus us. I talked to Lazaro Lopez when he was first making the appointment for our board. He actually called me before he ultimately made the decision. He told me that he was going to pick somebody from our list of people who submitted resumes into our board. He never did that. This David Olsen was not one of the people who stated any kind of interest to be on our board.
Our main reason for not going to meetings was because we didn’t like how things were happening back then.
Would you say you do not approve of David Olsen’s appointment?
No, because he’s also a member of the Downers Grove board. You cannot hold both positions, and nobody seems to be challenging this, enough anyway. I think it’s wrong that he’s actually on both boards. Not to mention, Mazzochi herself and her husband gave the guy $3,000 towards his campaign. She gave him $1,000 and her husband gave him $2,000 in campaign contributions.
I talked to him for about 20 to 25 minutes on the phone before he was actually sworn in. I asked him about a bunch of things that I was thinking of in my mind about the board. One of the things I asked him was, if the money that he got from her and her husband would sway his vote towards the Clean Slate. He said no. I don’t believe that. I even told him, in my eyes he’s already tainted, bought and paid for by the Clean Slate. Plain and simple.
What do you think Dr. Lazaro’s reasoning was for appointing Olsen?
I know his reasoning was because of Governor Rauner. It was a politically driven appointment. Basically that’s what it was. He was not from one of the people who sent in a resume to be appointed, and that’s a complete Rauner deal.
Did you get to see the applications of the people who applied?
Yea. There was about 35 resumes. Some of which were actually very good by the way. These people had a lot of experience. They had a lot that they could bring to the board. Not to mention also working with both sides. That’s who I would have wanted to work with better. I don’t like a politically driven board majority as it is turning out to be and what it has turned into. That’s not how you get things done at this college.
You have to have the board working together as a team. The board is a team. We’re all elected by the public. We’re all a team that’s suppose to be working together. I’ve been stressing this for a long time, and no one seems to be paying attention to me about that. I’ve told the paper this. I made a statement about the board working together as a team, and so far we haven’t been doing that.
If you notice about David Olsen’s votes, about 75 to 80 percent of them are in favor of the Clean Slate.
If the process of picking a trustee would have happened, if you remember specific applicants, who would you have wanted to see appointed?
I don’t know any candidates off hand, but I would vote for the best one that we had a resume for. But then again, the Clean Slate would never go along with what we would want. What our side of the board would want. That’s why we had to have Lopez appoint somebody. This vote would have never come to a consensus of who they wanted to pick. That was never going to happen because of the way this board is split. You got the Clean Slate, and then you got us. That’s basically what it is.
Any additional comments you want to talk about for the board?
I’ve been trying to say this for a long time. This board has to be working together. The college has spent millions of dollars on attorney and these Alix Partners alone. Now we’ve got in-house counsel, which is another $300,000. That’s a lot of money. When I first joined the board, we had one legal counsel. One law firm for legal counsel. Our attorney fee’s, at that time, was $440,000. Now we’re up to over four million. That’s just attornies and Alix Partners alone, not to mention the in-house counsel, which we do not need by the way. No other community college has an in-house counsel. We don’t need it. There’s a big difference between four million and 440,000.
I made a statement at the last meeting regarding Harper College. They’re cutting back expenses. They’re laying off around 34 people coming up in June. They’re gone because they are trying to save money. They’re cutting back on travel expenses, and they’re cutting back on printing supplies to save another $1.5 million. In layoffs there’s going to be another $3.5 million. That’s $5 million right there that they’re trying to save, and yet this board is spending money by the millions, and they don’t care.
I said this at the last meeting, there’s no community college in this country that’s completely bulletproof as far as their finances go. Any community college could be in the same situation that Harper is in right now. That’s what people need to be thinking about. That’s what the watch dogs need to be thinking about. That’s what the Glen Hansen’s and the Chris Jarman’s that come in and always speak against us by the way. That’s what these people need to be thinking about, and they’re not. And yet it’s okay to be spending, to them, millions of dollars for nothing, for frivolous spending.
Why don’t you think the school needs these law firms?
Because they don’t have college law experience, or school law of any kind that they practice. We had college attorneys. They were come of the best. Robbins Schwartz gives big seminars for legal updates at the ICCTA conferences I’ve been to. They actually give updates. You can’t get better than these people. These people practice it day and night. That’s their primary practice, college law. You can’t get better than these people, and they won’t charge you an arm and a leg either. That $440,000, that was from them.
Why do you think the other side of the board wanted to hire an in-house counsel?
I don’t have any idea why they want to do that. To me, it’s just a waste of money; a waste of money that we don’t have to spend. $300,000 is a lot of money, and that could help a lot of students with scholarships, with programs. That’s a lot of money that this college should be putting into other, better purposes than wasting it on all of these attorneys. We don’t need them.