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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Former Village Manager Not Entitled To Hearing When Contract Was Not Renewed

A federal appeals court recently ruled in favor of a municipality in a lawsuit brought by a former village manager who alleged that the village's failure to provide a hearing before it chose not to renew his contract violated his due process rights. Linear v. Village of University Park, (7th Cir. April 17, 2018).

The former manager had an employment contract with the Village that expired with the mayor's term. When the mayor began her new term in May of 2015, the Village decided not to extend his contract. The former manager filed suit, claiming that he was entitled to a hearing before he was terminated under the due process clause of the federal constitution. The Village replied that he was not terminated, and instead the Village simply did not renew his contract when the term ended. The district court agreed with the Village and dismissed the former manager's case, finding he had no property interest in the position because state statute prohibits any contract for a village manager from extending past the end of the mayor's term.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit also held that the former manager had no federal property right to remain as village manager. However, the court took issue with the district court's ruling on the state law issues, and particularly its application of the statutory limits on contracting beyond the mayor's term. It also noted that the case was more about contractual rights (i.e., what did the employment contract provide), rather than a federal due process issue, and that was an issue for the state court to address, not the federal court.  

In short, the Seventh Circuit held that the former manager had no federal constitutional right to a hearing on the Village's decision not to renew his contract. The court refused to address the other claims, including whether he was entitled to severance under the contract, finding those to be state law issues that should be decided by the state court.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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