College of DuPage gives foundation board member $630,000 in no-bid projects

Without receiving a single competitive bid, the College of DuPage has paid a member of its foundation board more than $630,000 to design and install signs for the school over the past four years — with much of the work made possible through a contract that references her experience as an architect.

That's where it gets tricky.

Foundation board member Carla Burkhart is not an architect. Her company, Herricane Graphics, does not provide architectural services.

A Tribune analysis of records from Burkhart's work at the school since 2011 raises questions about how Illinois' largest community college awards contracts, especially to vendors who serve on the board of the College of DuPage Foundation, the school's private fundraising arm. Ten of the foundation's 22 board members work for companies with financial ties to the college, according to documents obtained under the state Freedom of Information Act.

After questions from the Tribune, the chairwoman of the school's board of trustees, Erin Birt, recently ordered a review of contracts between the school and its foundation members. The publicly funded college does not have a policy regarding contracts with foundation board members.

The college's dealings with Burkhart also have prompted a state investigation.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation recently filed a document with an administrative court against Burkhart, asking her to address the claim that she falsely represented herself as an architect when she signed a contract with the College of DuPage in 2012. Under state law, it's a misdemeanor to portray oneself as an architect without a license. Read the rest of the story in the Chicago Tribune.