Hamilton, College of DuPage trustees seek dismissal of Breuder suit
Three College of DuPage trustees and former Chairwoman Kathy Hamilton have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them by former President Robert Breuder.
The request, submitted on Monday to Northern District Court Judge Andrea Wood, describes the claims in Breuder's 43-page suit as improperly made, often redundant, and in several areas, barred by time limits.
Breuder filed the suit in October, one day after being fired in a 4-1 vote from his post at the college,
The board's vote voided the school's $763,000 severance deal with Breuder, a package approved by the previous board and staunchly opposed by Hamilton and her allies -- trustees Bernstein, Deanne Mazzochi and Frank Napolitano.
Breuder, who is seeking more than $2 million in damages, claims Hamilton, with the help of her supporters, ran a "malicious and wrongful scheme" that "maliciously tarnished Dr. Breuder's professional reputation" while trampling on his contractual and constitutional rights. The suit names COD's seven-member board of trustees and specifically Hamilton, Bernstein, Mazzochi and Napolitano as defendants. Hamilton stepped down in December, citing unspecified personal reasons.
"Defendants Hamilton, Mazzochi, Napolitano, and Bernstein had decided to wrongfully terminate Dr. Breuder long before October 20, 2015, based solely on their personal interests and political agendas," the lawsuit reads. It says the charges outlined in the board's resolution "are baseless and nothing more than pretext" for the four board members' "predetermination" to fire Breuder, who began work as COD's president on Jan. 1, 2009.
But Hamilton and the three trustees, individually represented by different attorneys, argue differently in the joint, 18-page filing. They argue, instead, that being sued both in their capacity as board members and as individuals is redundant and unnecessary.
The response says individual defendants are entitled to immunity because their conduct did not violate "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known."
The defendants' lawyers also claim that the trustees are protected by the First Amendment from being accused of making defamatory or slanderous statements against Breuder, "because they concern a public figure about whom critical speech -- even inaccurate critical speech -- enjoys First Amendment protection."
Furthermore, the filing notes that Breuder's suit relies on statements made as far back as 2013, which is outside of the one-year statute of limitation for defamation. Any claims of defamation made more than a year before the filing of the Oct. 21 lawsuit "is time-barred and should be disregarded," the response says.
The filing comes less than a month after individual trustees were warned by the COD board's insurer that they could be left on their own to pay damages if Breuder prevails in the suit and it is determined they acted outside of the scope of their duties. Breuder's attorney, Marty Dolan, didn't immediately return request for comment.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 20.