A double standard at
Triton College?

by Bill Dwyer
Special Wednesday Journal

A Triton College plumber remains on the job despite having been convicted of a felony, accused
of another felony allegedly committed on the community college's campus, and losing his driver's
license after multiple drunk driving arrests, Wednesday Journal has learned.

In fact, Hugo Armando Torres, whose boss is also his brother, has earned 10 percent monthly
bonuses, despite his run-ins with the law.  Not every Triton employee, however, has been so
fortunate.

Last April, then-Dean of Students Edmund Forst, an eight-year veteran of the school, was walked
off campus and later fired without explanation after falling out of favor with Triton President
Patricia Granados.

Forst's ouster was the latest in a series of highly placed administrative personnel let go by Triton,
including former dean of technology Melvin Butts and former dean of corporate and community
education Ray Lestina. Those two administrators were allegedly fired after refusing to go along
with demands to cut specific programs.

In October 2005, on the other hand, Torres pleaded guilty to involvement in the theft of nearly $1
million from an Elmhurst bank, at which time an indictment by a Cook County grand jury on four
felonies related to the forgery of a Triton student ID was dropped. Torres lost his driver's license
earlier in 2005 after multiple drunk driving and driving on suspended license arrests.

Federal prosecutors consider the Torres case a criminal matter. A Triton spokesperson called
the Torres case "a personnel matter" and declined to comment.

Asked about his troubles with the feds last Wednesday at the maintenance building on the Triton
Campus, Torres said he "didn't want to talk it." Asked why not, he replied, "It, it hurts me, so I ...
don't want to talk about it."

According to the Illinois Secretary of State, Torres' driving privileges were revoked on Feb. 19,
2005, after he was caught driving twice-at least once while inebriated-on a license that had been
suspended for 36 months in June 2004 after he refused to submit to a breathalyzer test.     

Torres has been convicted of at least two DUIs, including in January 2003 in DuPage County.   
The traffic convictions, while serious, are small potatoes compared to the mess Torres entered
into in April 2004. According to his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Torres was
approached in the spring of 2002 by childhood friend and recently hired Triton employee Alfredo
Gonzales, who recruited him to take part in a scheme to defraud an Elmhurst bank.

The alleged mastermind of the scheme, Sara Gonzales, a bank employee, had used a Triton
computer to create online banking capability for an account without the knowledge of the
account's owner and arranged to have personal checks printed for the account and sent to her,
according to court documents.

Torres then acquired a fake Triton ID under the name of Mario Rosales, which he used with other
documents to open an account at the bank. He admits to signing a fraudulent $12,450 check and
depositing it in the new account. A month later on May 19, he endorsed two more checks, one for
$400,000, the other for $547,550, and turned them over to Alfredo Gonzales, who had them
deposited in the "Mario Rosales" account. Torres, Alfredo Gonzales, Sara Gonzales and her
husband Horacio were arrested shortly afterward as they prepared to wire the money to Mexico.

The federal charges weren't Torres' only problem, however. Shortly after his arrest, he was
indicted by a Cook County grand jury on two counts of forgery and two counts of delivery of a
forged document. Those charges were dropped by prosecutors around the time that Torres
began negotiating his plea agreement on the federal charges.

On Oct. 6, 2005, Torres, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of aiding and abetting bank
fraud. He faced up to 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine but cooperated with federal
prosecutors and was sentenced to 3 years probation, avoiding prison time.

All involved in the scheme got prison time except Torres.
How Torres avoided being fired from Triton for his behavior is a mystery to many who know about
it.

"They fire people for sleeping on the job," said one anonymous source, one of three sources
knowledgeable about Triton interviewed for this story. All three requested anonymity because of
fears of personal and professional retribution.

According to the most recent labor agreement between Triton College and the Triton College
Classified Association, there are several causes for which employees can be fired outside of the
established process. Among them are "conviction of a felony anywhere during the term of
employment," and "conviction for engaging in criminal activity while on Triton's campus."

Federal prosecutor Brian Hayes confirmed Monday that Hugo Torres was convicted of a felony,
not a misdemeanor, in October 2005.

Torres appears to have violated Triton policies as well as state and federal laws. The Triton
Human Resources handbook, under "ethics" states, "All employees of the college shall conduct
themselves in accordance with all local, state and federal statutes, as well as all Triton policies,
procedures and regulations."

It's even unclear what qualified Torres for his job as a plumber at Triton. Before being hired at
Triton, he worked as a "packer" at a west suburban food processor, according to a bankruptcy
filing.

Torres' brother, Antonio, or Tony, is in charge of the grounds workers at Triton as associate
director of facilities.

Sources say that Tony Torres, who is also a part-time Melrose Park police officer, has made a
habit the past few years of hiring only family and friends from his native village in Mexico.

Tony Torres said he brought Hugo into Triton around 10 years ago as a part-time custodial
worker. He said he didn't know about his brother's legal problems and that he wasn't even sure
he knew his brother's age.

"All I know about is the [license] suspension," he said. Asked how he couldn't know about his
brother being convicted of a felony, Tony Torres replied, "My brother never tells me anything
about what's going on."     Others say that's not true, though, that Tony Torres watches over his
brother closely.

"He's extremely close to Hugo," said one source. "He knows everything that's going on with him."
Triton board Chairman Mark Stephens did not respond to several calls for comment for this
article. Triton's vice president for business, Sean Sullivan, whose department oversees the
operations and maintenance department, said last Thursday that he didn't speak for the college
and forwarded an interview request to Margaret Stabile, Triton's vice president for institutional
advancement.

Stabile declined to speak with Wednesday Journal Monday despite several phone messages and
e-mails posing specific questions, opting instead to fax a brief written statement in which she said
the college's administration had "become aware of a set of circumstances involving a certain
member" of the Triton staff. Citing confidentiality requirements related to personnel and
contractual concerns, Stabile said it was "not appropriate for the college to comment on the
progress of the matter."

The college, she said, is consulting with its attorneys and would take certain steps in the future
when it "deems it appropriate."

"Further comment may be made at that time," she said.

Silence golden at Triton and talking can be dangerous

Understanding exactly what goes on at Triton College is a challenge, because all employees, with
the exception of tenured faculty, are reportedly fearful of retribution should they speak out about
the college administration to outsiders. In some cases, it appears, there is pressure to stay silent
even among insiders.

According to sources who asked to remain anonymous, a female supervisor in the college's
Operations and Maintenance Department named Avis Ward received a bullet in an envelope in
her departmental mailbox in October. Ward, reportedly, had been complaining that the
employees under her supervision, all of whom are Mexican immigrants, could not understand her
directions and questions.

The only reference to the event is a line in the October Triton Police Department monthly
reports, #1045, listing a disorderly conduct incident. "Envelope containing bullet found."  "Report
on file," it reads under the heading,"disposition."

However, Triton Vice President for Business Sean Sullivan, who is also the school's Freedom of
Information Act officer, declined a FOIA request for details about the incident.

One source said that while the Triton Police Department investigated, questioning numerous
individuals, there has been no resolution of the incident.

"Nothing else is being done about it," said the source, who also suggested that nothing more will
be done about the incident. Ward, the source said, fears being fired if she dares speak to
anyone about the incident. Contacted last week at work, Ward flatly refused to speak with
Wednesday Journal.

The incident is reminiscent of occurrences 23 years ago, when attempts were made to intimidate
three top Triton administrators in similar fashion.

In December, 1984, the FBI, which was already investigating Triton on other matters, looked into
the sending of bullets through the U.S. Mail to three Triton officials, including the senior vice
president for business services, the director of campus development, and the director of physical
plant, operations and maintenance. All three men, whose jobs involved recommending contracts
and purchasing supplies, received a bullet in an envelope with the words "silence or" pasted on a
sheet of paper using clippings from newspapers and magazines.

Wednesday Journal has been unable to determine how that investigation concluded.