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Forbes Editorial: $26 Million Selfie at Illinois Jr. College



It was rough going at the second largest college in Illinois this summer.  In July, a $20 million state construction grant was stopped after COD President Dr. Robert Breuder’s email was exposed which outlined a political strategy to bring support to the governor. Newspaper editorials called it a “seedy little money grab” and the governor said the behavior was “extremely alarming.”

Activists exposed much more. Since 2009, the college spent $550 million on construction projects with funds reallocated to build an upscale French restaurant and a wine cellar. The restaurant lost over $500,000 in its first year of operation while purchasing over $200,000 in wine and accessories. The President’s compensation is $500,000 annually and nine executives cost taxpayers and students approximately $2.4 million per year.

Last month, I wrote about this college at Forbes, “The Real Financial Crisis in College.” But, the story continues…

Responding to our Freedom of Information Act request for COD checkbook, the college produced a troubling record of payments. $27,931 for dues and fees flowed to the president’s private shooting club. Three global satellite phones were paid for each of the last three years so the president could “keep in touch” during his exotic hunting vacations (he shot an African elephant).

Breuder shoots elephantCOD President Robert Breuder billed taxpayers and students for three global satellite phones for his exotic hunting trips (2012-14).

Now, we know why- most of the board didn’t have a clue. Since at least April 2013, $26.1 million flowed through a special type of accounting called ‘imprest’ and was hidden from public scrutiny. At COD, imprest payments aren’t individually disclosed, but instead aggregated and summarized as a line item.  Conversely, “operating payments” were individually disclosed in the board packet and posted online.

COD made liberal use of this imprest accounting scheme: $26,100,000 on over 21,000 transactions to 5,613 vendors flowed through 467 separate fund accounts. Recently, COD Treasurer Thomas Glaser told the board during a special budget meeting in June that all financial transactions were listed in the board packet and posted online, but that just wasn’t the case.

The Bureau of the Fiscal Service of the U.S. Department of the Treasury defines imprest funds as “pretty cash funds” and accounting associations warn that weakness in accounting control could result from the use of imprest funds. For instance, only the Board Chairman Erin Birt got to review the line-by-line transactions of these specially tagged payments before the board “approved” the aggregated total amounts.

So what did COD payout via this accounting scheme?  Here’s a snapshot…

To Read the Rest of the editorial, please click here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2014/09/10/26-million-selfie-at-illinois-jr-college/

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