Ex-Rankin chief sues village over firing

Ex-Rankin chief sues village over firing

DANVILLE — A former police chief for the village of Rankin has filed a lawsuit seeking $93,750 in damages from the village for an alleged breach of contract that he claims occurred when he was fired two years ago.

The civil complaint, filed in Vermilion County Circuit Court on July 3 by Urbana attorney Roger Webber, claims the village board did not honor its contract setting the terms of Christopher White's employment when it voted 5-1 to fire him during a special meeting on Aug. 19, 2010.

Webber said in the complaint that White never received a written notice of termination and that the cause of termination was never specified as required by his contract with the village. Subsequently, the contract was breached, Webber said.

Webber said Monday that the five-year contract, dated March 25, 2009, states that the village can terminate White's employment for "malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in connection with the performance of (his) duties," but the village was required to specify the cause of termination in a written notice.

Webber said because the contract was breached, White should be entitled to the pay he would have received if he had remained employed through the contract's expiration in May 2014. White's salary was $25,000 per year.

"We're asking them to pay the balance of the contract due," Webber said.

The village has 30 days to file an answer to the complaint or must otherwise appear in court at a to-be-determined date, Webber said.

Rankin Mayor Aaron Warren had no comment on the civil complaint. The village's attorney, Curtis A. Anderson of Danville, did not return a message at his office requesting comment.

The board voted to fire White in August 2010 despite the threat of lawsuits from a private attorney, Mike Zopf of Champaign, whom White had previously consulted. The board never publicly disclosed its reasons for firing White, who earlier had been suspended without pay for two weeks. White had said the suspension was due to concerns over the police department's budget, but the board declined to confirm that claim.

White, a Paxton resident, ran unsuccessfully in a three-way race for Ford County sheriff in the 2010 Republican primary election.

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