By Jean Lotus
Triton College administrators who had their salary bumped up at the March 25 board meeting made campaign contributions to the "Friends of Mark Stephens" campaign fund for the board president, as well as a new PAC for other trustees, the Review has found.
Five of the eight administrators, including College President Patricia Granados, donated thousands in total to Stephens' campaign fund and the campaign funds of other trustees.
At the March board meeting, Granados was given a 27-percent raise in two installments to $312,000 per year, making her the highest-paid community college chief executive in the state of Illinois, according to the Illinois Community College Board.
In the recent election in May 2013, administrators who got raises donated thousands to "Trustees for Quality Education at Triton College" — a slate political action committee for Triton trustees Diane M. Viverito, Thomas Gary and Vanessa Moritz. Moritz serves as Forest Park's village clerk.
Sean Sullivan, vice president of business services at Triton, is the biggest spender on campaign donations. Sullivan has donated more than $6,600 to Mark Stephens' campaign funds since 2001 and pitched in $1,000 to the trustee PAC last May. He got a $33,000 raise in two installments from the board at the March meeting.
Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Douglas Olson's pay went up by more than $32,000. He donated $1,000 to the trustee slate in May 2013 and has donated $4,300 to Stephens since 2008. Granados has donated between $200 and 500 to Stephens's campaign every year since 2004. She also threw in $500 to the PAC in May. Granados got a raise of more than $67,000, or 27.4 percent. That amount will not be paid in full, because Granados is retiring in December.
Associate Vice President of Facilities John Lambrecht got a raise of almost $16,000. Lambrecht has pitched in $2,200 to Friends of Mark Stephens since 2007. He also was generous to the trustee PAC, giving $1,000.
Quincy Martin III, associate vice president of student affairs, was a recent arrival to the donor's club. He donated $250 to Friends of Mark Stephens in September 2013. The board gave Martin a $24,000 raise.
Triton Board Chairman Mark Stephens said he did not pay attention to who donated to his campaign.
"I don't know who donates to my campaign. I never look at my [Illinois campaign contribution] D-2s," Stephens said "My treasurer takes care of it. We have one fundraiser where we go to the rooftops at Wrigley Field and watch a game."
"I don't know who gives and I don't care who gives," Stephens added. "To say there's any connection [of donations to administrator raises] is ridiculous."
Moritz did not respond to emails and a phone call for comment by press time.
Campaign donations from administrators raised a red flag in October for college accreditators who evaluated Triton last fall. Accreditators from the Higher Learning Commission complained that administrators were donating money to the board president's campaign.
Their report noted, "several members of the institution's senior leadership have made contributions to the elections campaigns of both the chair and vice-chair of the board." As a results Triton's accreditation report contains areas that state, "core component is met with concerns."
Stephens defended his administrators, saying they had worked without pay raises during the 2002-03 and 2009-10 school years.
"They also took two furlough days without pay," Stephens said.
He pointed out that teachers in the union had negotiated raises every year.
"The salary structure for administrators was too low. The whole pay scale was too low," Stephens said. "We don't want [College of DuPage] or Oakton [Community College] stealing away our talented people, which has happened in the past.
"We have a lot of hardworking folks who are good people and earn every nickel they get."
Stephens defended his financial management of Triton.
"We've held the line on taxes better than any other public body in the area over last 20 years," he said. "I'd vote yes [for the raises] again in a heartbeat, because [they] were the right thing for Triton."