Former College of DuPage president Robert Breuder filed a lawsuit against the school's Board of Trustees Wednesday after they voted for his firing Tuesday night. The suit also explicitly names the four board members who voted to unseat him, Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton and Trustees Charles Bernstein, Frank Napolitano and Deanne Mazzochi, as defendants in the lawsuit.
The federal lawsuit alleges that the 4-1 decision to terminate his job violates five contractual and constitutional protections, including his 14th amendment right to due process. The lawsuit also alleges that the firing "without cause" breaches his contract that is supposed to go through June 2019 and his previously board-approved $763,000 retirement package.
Breuder's suit also alleges that the four board members who voted to fire him engaged in a "witch-hunt" due to "their personal biases and political interests," adding that they ignored the board's lawyer who found "no legal or factual basis to terminate" him. Lastly, Breuder claims that the board defamed him with "slanderous" statements that resulted in "severe and irreparable damage to his personal and professional reputation" and cost him "professional speaking engagements, consultation opportunities and awards."
The lawsuit is seeking unknown compensatory and punitive damages and Breuder wants a jury trial in the case.
The board voted to place Breuder on paid administrative leave at the end of April, pending the outcomes of investigations launched by federal and DuPage County prosecutors as well as Illinois education officials -- all of whom were looking into spending and other problems at the College of DuPage. The school came under fire over the previous board's approval of Breuder's $763,000 severance package and there were reports of alleged excessive spending by Breuder and College of DuPage administrators at a high-end campus restaurant, which trustees voted to close in August.
When the board voted to fire Breuder Tuesday night, State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) released a statement in support of the move.
"Given what we've learned, trustees should have pursued this from the beginning. They could have spared this community, this institution, taxpayers and students a lot of embarrassment. But since we don't have a time machine, I suppose it's better late than never."
But Breuder's legal team feels they have a solid case against the college's board of trustees.
"The recent actions of the COD board are illegal on multiple levels -- period," Breuder's attorney Martin Dolan said via statement. "It's time for Dr. Breuder to set the record straight, the web of false accusations by certain members of the current board must stop ... This is nothing more than an abuse of office and power by a board who has a personal vendetta and will stop at nothing to try and find wrongdoing, of which there is none."