Police Chief Has No Property Right To The Job

As a federal Court of Appeals put it, “with his mother ensconced as the president of the village, and an ordinance that provided he could only be removed from office if the president agreed, Cody Miyler must have been shocked when he was discharged from his position as the Chief of Police of the tiny Village of East Galesburg, Illinois, without his mother’s consent.” Miyler sued the Village, contending that his termination violated his due process rights.

Miyler’s argument was that a state law specifically provides that the mayor or president of a municipality may remove any officer appointed by the mayor or president, and sets forth procedures for removal. Miyler contended that the state law granted him a property right to the job, and that he was no longer an at-will employee.

The Court did not see matters Miyler’s way. The Court held that “procedural guarantees do not establish a property interest protected under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause. In order to create a property interest, a statute or ordinance must provide some substantive criteria limiting the employer’s discretion, as for instance in a requirement that employees can only be fired for cause. A statute which merely provides procedures to be followed does not include a substantive right.”

Miyler v. Village of East Galesburg, 512 F.3d 896 (7th Cir. 2008).

This article appears in the April 2008 issue