A sociology instructor who sued Inver Hills Community College when he was put on leave after leading a no-confidence vote against the school’s president has settled his dispute with the college, earning him an $82,500 payout and a year’s salary but also leaving him banned for life from teaching in the Minnesota State college system.
David Berger said he agreed to the settlement of the lawsuit filed in Dakota County District Court against the two-year school in Inver Grove Heights because it has been “a very long process, and it was just time to settle.”
A spokeswoman for the college hasn’t explained the school’s reason for accepting the terms, but the settlement document provided by Berger to the Star Tribune notes Inver Hills avoids “admission of any wrongdoing” in its discipline of Berger and avoids any further costs of litigation in connection with the suit.
Berger, 56, was put on “paid investigatory leave” in February 2016 and banned from the campus in Inver Grove Heights for more than three months while the college said it was looking into an undisclosed complaint against him.
In a court filing as part of his suit alleging that school officials relied on “coerced and false” testimony in reaching its conclusions against him, Berger disclosed that the investigation ended six months later with a decision to suspend him for five days without pay.
According to a disciplinary letter, Berger was cited for “inappropriate and unprofessional conduct” for allegedly approaching a student in January and pressuring him to distribute pens that bore the logo of the faculty union, Inver Hills United. He also was accused of being disrespectful to a staff member by refusing to talk to her and “lying to the investigator” about his actions.
At the time, Berger was one of the leaders of a faculty no-confidence vote against the college’s president, Tim Wynes, who later retired.
Berger, who denied the allegations, called it a “frivolous investigation” that targeted him for his union activity.
This is the second legal settlement in recent months to cost the Minnesota State system a sizable amount of money.
A Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) employee, who said he was dismissed after reporting the athletic department for financial mismanagement and treating men’s and women’s sports teams differently, reached a $100,000 settlement in mid-April.
Cameron Stoltz, former athletic director and men’s soccer coach for DCTC in Rosemount, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against DCTC and Minnesota State following his dismissal in 2016. He claimed the school retaliated against him, refusing to pay him in full and cutting his coaching and teaching responsibilities. The school eventually replaced him.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482