Two former DuPage Township workers said in a lawsuit that they were wrongfully fired earlier this year because of their political support for the rivals of sitting township officials.
Maureen Fox and Lynne Woodard have accused DuPage Township Supervisor Gary Marschke and Township Administrator Jackie Traynere of terminating their employment out of “political animus.”
Fox had worked for the township since 2001 and Woodard since 2005, according to the lawsuit. Both held the title of senior director.
Fox and Woodard state in the lawsuit that before this past April’s municipal election, they had supported the opponents of Marschke’s Democratic slate that ultimately won the election. Traynere, who also is a Will County Board member, was hired as township administrator after Marschke and the new board took office.
The plaintiffs said they were targeted after the election because they also actively campaigned for Marschke’s and Traynere’s opponents by attending campaign events and putting up yard signs. A Republican slate led by a former township trustee also ran for office. Another former township supervisor ran as a write-in candidate.
Fox and Woodard said Marschke moved to fire them in order to “make room” to hire Traynere. They also pointed out that Traynere had run for mayor of Bolingbrook against former Mayor Roger Claar in 2017. Fox has a “longstanding friendship” with Claar, according to the lawsuit.
Last May, the plaintiffs said, Marschke told them “we’re terminating you.”
They argued that Marschke firing them was a violation of their First Amendment rights as well as an “implied contract” with the township that they could only be fired for cause.
Marschke said Thursday he had not read the lawsuit and neither he nor township attorneys had been served. He also claimed he was not aware of what candidates Fox and Woodard supported during the election.
“I had no idea who they supported or who they didn’t support,” he said.
Marschke added that before taking office, he had planned to restructure positions within township government. He also said the township had no implied contracts with any employees, and workers were employed on an at-will basis.
He also pointed to the township’s employee handbook that states “unless your employment is governed by a separate collective bargaining agreement or duly executed contract stating otherwise, you are an at-will employee. That means that the employment relationship is for no definite or determinable period of time, and regardless of salary, position or rate of pay may be terminated by either DuPage Township, or by the employee at any time with or without cause or notice.”
Traynere declined to comment beyond calling the lawsuit “nonsense.”
Charles Johnson, an attorney representing Fox and Woodard, told The Herald-News there was precedent for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit by employees who worked under an implied contract, but did not say what the precedent was.
When asked to explain how an implied contract would negate the conditions of at-will employment, he refused.
“I’m not going to teach you law,” he said.