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Firefighter Lawsuit

Firefighter Lawsuit

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Published by wednesdayjournal
Riverside firefighters file suit against chief
Riverside firefighters file suit against chief

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Categories:Types, Legal forms
Published by: wednesdayjournal on May 06, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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07/10/2014

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IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS COUNTY DEPARTMENT, CHANCERY DIVISION
THOMAS BENSFIELD, WILLIAM RUSKA, ) A.J. RUSKA and RAY WILLIAMSON, ) ) Plaintiffs, ) ) v. ) Case No. ) VILLAGE OF RIVERSIDE and ) Fire Chief SPENCER KIMURA ) ) Defendants. )  __________________________________________)
COMPLAINT FOR ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW
 NOW COME the Plaintiffs, THOMAS BENSFIELD, A.J. RUSKA, WILLIAM RUSKA and RAY WILLIAMSON, by and through their attorneys, ELLIOT R. ZINGER ASSOCIATES, and pursuant to the Illinois Administrative Review Act, 735 ILCS 5/3 -- 101 et seq. complain of the Defendants, the VILLAGE OF RIVERSIDE and its Fire Chief, SPENCER KIMURA as follows: 1.
 
This is a complaint for Administrative Review to review four decisions of the Village of Riverside arising from the same set of operative facts. 2.
 
Plaintiff Thomas Bensfield
(“Lt. Bensfield”)
is a resident of the Village of North Riverside, Cook County, Illinois, and is employed by the Village of Riverside Fire Department, holding the rank of Lieutenant. 3.
 
Plaintiff A.J. Ruska
(“
Firefighter
Ruska”)
 is a resident of the Village of Riverside, Cook County, Illinois, and is employed by the Village of Riverside Fire Department, holding the rank of Firefighter. 4.
 
Plaintiff William Ruska (“Lt. Ruska”) i
s a resident of the Village of Riverside,
 
 2
Cook County, Illinois, and is employed by the Village of Riverside Fire Department, holding the rank of Lieutenant. 5.
 
Plaintiff Lieutenant Ray Williamson
(“
Lt.
Williamson”)
is a resident of the Village of Brookfield, Cook County, Illinois, and is employed by the Village of Riverside Fire Department, holding the rank of Lieutenant. 6.
 
Defendants Village of Riverside
(“the Village”)
and its Fire Chief Spencer Kimura
(“Chief Kimura”)
are located within the Village of Riverside, County of Cook. The Village and Chief Kimura are legally charged with the responsibility of hearing and deciding charges filed by the Fire Chief seeking the discipline of firefighters, such as the Plaintiffs. 7.
 
The Village is named herein to confer jurisdiction over them by this Court  pursuant to the Administrative Review Act. Decisions resulting from a hearing held by the fire chief are reviewable under the Administrative Review Act. 8.
 
Chief Kimura is located in Cook County, Village of Riverside, Illinois, and is named herein to confer jurisdiction over him by this Court pursuant to the Administrative Review Act. 9.
 
Lt. Bensfield, Lt. Ruska and Lt. Williamson were served with a copy of Chief Kim
ura’s
decision ordering their respective three-day suspensions on March 26, 2014. 10.
 
Firefighter
Ruska was served with a copy of the Chief’s decision ordering his
suspension for three days on April 17, 2014. 11.
 
Lt. Bensfield, Lt. Ruska and Lt. Williamson were charged alleging they, individually and collectively, failed to discipline a fellow firefighter on December 14, 2013 at 11:45 p.m., while all of them were off duty and at a local bar, following the Riverside Firemen Association
’s
 annual Christmas party. In other words, Plaintiffs were charged and later
 
 3
disciplined for not engaging in official business while consuming alcohol off duty in a bar. 12.
 
In fact, Lt. Ruska had not yet arrived at the subject premises at the time of the alleged incident that led to the discipline. 13.
 
Firefighter Ruska received a 21-
day suspension and a “last chance agreement”
for,
inter alia
, allegedly “fail[ing] to disclose his involvement in” the bar incident of December 14, 2013 and violating the Riverside Fire Department’s new “Code of Conduct.”
14.
 
Firefighter Ruska’s discipline was enhanced for a February 2013 incident wherein
he allegedly tried to avoid disclosure of a license suspension taking of a leave of absence. This was despite another firefighter, Kevin Kuratko, having failed to disclose a conviction for D.U.I. and license suspension without receiving similar punishment. 15.
 
On or about March 26, 2014, hearing on the original charges commenced with all Plaintiffs present. One other firefighter was afforded the right to counsel at the hearing. Plaintiffs were not afforded the same right. 16.
 
Thereafter, by decisions delivered March 26, 2014 and April 14, 2014, Plaintiffs were notified in writing that the Village and Chief Kimura ordered their suspensions. (A copy of those decisions are attached as Exhibit A and incorporated by reference herein). 17.
 
The
Code of Conduct (“the Code”)
under which Firefighter Ruska was disciplined was adopted by Chief Kimura on August 15, 2012, when he forced all firefighters to sign an acknowledgement of the code or face termination. 18.
 
The subsections of the Code under which Plaintiff A.J. Ruska was disciplined are unconstitutionally vague and should be invalidated:
“500.22 Always conduct myself, on and off duty, in a manner that reflects
 positively on myself, my department and the fire service in general. Accept
responsibility for my actions and for the consequences of my actions.”

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