Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wikipedia: Very critical of Rock Valley College—both past and current administrations

Wikipedia is a multilingual, Web-based, free-content encyclopedia project based mostly on anonymous contributions

The following is taken from Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_valley_college 

UPDATE:  The Wikipedia citation has drastically changed.  If you go to the citation it bears little resemblance to the way it was.  However, footnote numbers in the quoted article posted below still will send you to the newspaper articles.  I suggest that you read these references (most are from the Rock River Times)..

 

The college [Rock Valley College] was established in 1964 through a district-wide referendum after a two-year study established the need for a community college. RVC’s district comprises Winnebago and Boone County and parts of Stephenson, Ogle, McHenry and DeKalb counties. Since opening for classes in 1965, RVC has grown to an institution of 140 faculty members, 500 part-time lecturers and more than 7,500 students.

On Jan. 13, 2004, RVC President Dr. Roland "Chip" Chapdelaine was fired from the college nearly one year after Rockford-based, weekly newspaper, The Rock River Times, launched an award-winning, year-long series of news articles that spotlighted corruption at the college and Chapdelaine's mismanagement at RVC. [2]

The news articles were authored by Jeff Havens, staff writer for The Rock River Times, who was illegally fired by Chapdelaine and the RVC Board of Trustees in 2002. Havens was Laboratory Manager in the Physical Science Department at RVC from 2000 to 2002. Havens employment was illegally terminated by RVC after Havens publicly criticized Chapdelaine and RVC Board Trustees in print and broadcast media. Havens also spearheaded a union organization effort for staff at RVC.

The RVC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to fire Chapdelaine after the newspaper launched its news series, which culminated with an article that detailed RVC Board Chairman Chris Johnson's wife's land sale to RVC during the time she was a real estate agent.[3]

Approximately five months after the news series began, Havens and The Rock River Times were named defendants in a lawsuit filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court on June 5, 2003 by Donald B. Johannes, former RVC trustee and board chairman the evening Havens was illegally fired in Aug. 13, 2002 (Winnebago County Circuit Court case 03-L-219).

In the lawsuit, Johannes alleged he was defamed when the newspaper published an article on April 23, 2003 in which Johannes denied benefiting from the sale of insurance to RVC. Johannes was an insurance agent for more than 20 years, in addition to being an RVC trustee.[4]

Johannes' lawsuit was thrown out of court on Jan. 22, 2004 after the court ruled Johannes failed to prove anything in the article was false—just nine days after Chapdelaine was fired as RVC president. However, the court allowed Johannes a second chance to file his complaint.

Johannes re-filed his allegations the following month, but they too were thrown out of court for a second time on May 28, 2004 after he again failed to provide any evidence the article was false. When Johannes re-filed his lawsuit, he admitted in his filing there was a conspiracy to fire Havens for his written criticisms of the college—a violation of Havens' First Amendment right to exercise free speech.

In the first amended complaint filed with the state court, Johannes wrote: “On information and belief Jeffrey Havens…was fired…for writing negative articles about the college as summarized above.”

Observers of the proceedings speculated the real purpose of the lawsuit was to discourage the newspaper from continuing its investigation and reporting on events at the college, persuade owner Frank Schier to fire Havens as a reporter and financially ruin the newspaper.

In October 2004, the news series was recognized by the Illinois Press Association for outstanding reporting in their "Best of the Press" contest.

Although no specific reason was ever cited by the Board for terminating Chapdelaine, his tenure included the following:

1. Complaints. Numerous complaints from the college's employee groups to RVC Trustees

2. No confidence. Three "no-confidence" votes by all three employee groups that totaled 204-28

3. Status downgrade. Downgrade of RVC recognition status by the Illinois Community College Board. As of 2008, no other locally funded and operated community college in Illinois has ever had such a downgrade in status. The status was upgraded by the state two weeks after Chapdelaine was fired in January 2004

4. Deficit spending. Five consecutive and unprecedented years of deficit spending that totaled more than $7.3 million

5. Political donations. Illegal use of taxpayer funds by Chapdelaine for two political contributions, which were allegedly reimbursed only after inquiries about the expenditures were made by The Rock River Times

6. No-bid contract. Controversial awarding of a no-bid $5.6 million construction contract to Robert Stenstrom of Stenstrom Companies Ltd., for whom RVC named their Samuelson Road facility after he allegedly made a $1 million donation to the college. RVC never produced documentation the $1 million was ever received, despite requests from The Rock River Times.[5]

The $1 million was to be derived from construction services offered by Stenstrom,and sale of Stenstrom's personal jet. Part of the $1 million Stenstrom proposed was for "in-kind" construction management services. But the services were tied to a condition in which the services would only be offered if his company received the building contract for the Support Services Building. The Support Services Building was originally slated at $4.2 million, but ultimately cost $7.9 million.

The other half of the $1 million "gift" was contingent upon the sale of an aircraft owned by Stenstrom. However, at the time of the awarding the contract, and the alleged donation, the aircraft was being flown around Illinois for a political campaign. The campaign involved former Winnebago County Board Chairman Kris Cohn's failed bid for Illinois Secretary of State's office in 2002.

After RVC hired Stenstrom under terms of Illinois construction management law, Stenstrom awarded the contract to costruct the Support Services Building to himself. However, Illinois law prohibits construction managers from awarding contracts to themselves. Trustees, Chapdelaine and Stenstron also linked the hiring to Stenstrom's proclaimed $1 million donation to the college.

Despite the obvious abuse, and likely breaking of construction management law, Winnebago County State's Attorney Paul Logli refused to investigate the issue because he claimed the statute was "undeveloped," and was not interested in developing the statute.[6] Four years later, Logli was appointed to the position of Winnebago County Circuit Court judge in 2007 after holding the same job during the 1980s.

7. Recruitment scandal. Double payments to Chapdelaine in 1997 for airline expenses for his recruitment to RVC. Prior to that time, Chapdelaine was president of Cumberland County College in New Jersey.

In 1997, Chapdelaine charged $770 to his Cumberland County College credit card for three round-trip airline tickets from Philadelphia to O’Hare Airport at the same time he was being considered for his RVC position.

RVC also issued Chapdelaine two checks during the same period totaling $2,107.53 for his recruitment to RVC.

Cumberland County College documents show Chapdelaine charged Cumberland County College for two July 17, 1997, airline tickets to O’Hare, the day after he secured the RVC presidency on July 16,1997. Chapdelaine charged $612 to Cumberland County College for tickets and flight insurance for himself and his wife on July 17, 1997.

8. Construction overuns. At least $9.6 million in construction cost overruns, which included the Stenstrom-named facility on Samuelson Road, and the Support Services Building that Stenstrom constructed on RVC's main campus.

Chapdelaine's supporters argued he was a "change agent" who ushered RVC into a bold era of needed construction projects. Critics countered Chapdelaine severely mismanaged the college.

Epilogue

RVC hired Dr. Jack Becherer as its new president in 2004. Becherer has connections to the same corruption network that gave rise to Chapdelaine through his previous employment at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills,Illinois during the 1990s.Jack Becherer, president of ...

After a two-year presidency at Cuyahoga Community College's Eastern Campus in Cleveland, Ohio in which Chapdelaine proposed changing the institution into a center for "holistic medicine," he was hired in late 2006 as president of Los Angeles Trade Tech College. According to a Jan. 26, 2007 press release from the Los Angeles Community College District, Chapdelaine was presiding over $230 million in construction projects at the college.

Approximately five years after Chapdelaine was terminated, RVC began more building projects that included the following, which were featured in the Rockford Register Star in 2009.[7]:

  • $28.5 million science and math building
  • $1 million for renovations to the Stenstrom Center for Career Education
  • $13 million for renovations to the Physical Education Center
  • $2 million for updated parking lots on the main campus during
  • $7.5 million remodel of the Estelle M. Black Library in 2007

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