The former NIU law dean's resignation late last month followed an investigation into alleged "improper workplace conduct." Dannenmaier had been on administrative leave since February.
According to an NIU spokesman, he opted to resign after the investigation's conclusion, "citing his desire to see the law school remain focused on its important educational mission and to continue his own work in environmental law and policy."
Now, Dannenmaier is suing the university to block public disclosure of the investigation's outcome.
Don Craven is a lawyer who specializes in First Amendment issues. He said the former law dean faces a big hurdle in proving his case.
“He would have to bring whatever evidence he has to show that these truly were private matters and absolutely unrelated to his position as dean, or the complainant’s position as an employee of the college,” he said.
Craven said he can't weigh in on what he thinks will be the court's decision, but said he's experienced with these kinds of cases.
"If it’s improper workplace conduct, it’s information, these are records relating to the performance of public duties by public employees," he explains. "And the statute specifically excludes the possibility of any privacy claims being asserted as to those records.”
Dannenmaier first came to the NIU College of Law last June after serving as a professor.
Mark Cordes is taking Dannenmaier's role as interim dean until a replacement is found.
Both parties are due in court Sept. 1.