The former president of the College of DuPage won a victory in his federal court appeal against the trustees who ousted him. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that his employment contract was valid under Illinois law.
Robert Breuder was hired as president of the Glen Ellyn, Illinois-based community college for a four-year term beginning in 2008. The college’s board of trustees later extended his contract through 2019. In 2015, newly elected trustees, accusing Breuder of misconduct, discharged him without notice or a hearing. The board denied his severance pay and retirement benefits.
Breuder filed a complaint in Illinois federal court on state and federal grounds, accusing the board of breach of contract, deprivation of property without due process of law, and defamatory statements.
Public employees who serve pursuant to a contract are considered to have a property right in their job and generally must be afforded a hearing before termination.
The board obtained the dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that Breuder never had a valid employment contract.
The crux of the board’s argument was that under Illinois law dating back over a century, a governmental body whose members serve limited terms may not enter into contracts that extend beyond those terms (Millikin v. Edgar County, 142 Ill. 528 (1892)). The board that originally hired Breuder contained members whose terms expired the following year. Therefore, the defendants reasoned, both the original four-year contract and the extensions were invalid. Continue reading