Seven months after his brother, Matt, asked to be demoted from his post as Riverside deputy fire chief to captain, John Buckley has submitted a letter resigning as deputy fire chief, effective Feb. 18.
Unlike Matt, John Buckley is leaving the department he has served for the past 24 years.
“I hate to see him leave,” said Village Manager Peter Scalera, who confirmed Buckley’s resignation last week. “He has truly been an asset to the village. He’s very knowledgeable in the fire services on the administrative and operational sides. I have a great amount of respect for him.
“He’s the person who was the face of the department.”
According to Scalera, Buckley’s reasons for leaving were based on “things taking place in Pleasantview. He wanted to dedicate more time to his full-time job.”
Those reasons were echoed by Fire Chief Kevin Mulligan, who told the Landmark on Monday that “it’s difficult as a paid-on-call firefighter to maintain all of the responsibilities here and outside the department. I think people underestimate what it takes to be an employee here.”
Mulligan called John Buckley a “valuable employee who served over 24 years. I have a profound respect for him, and I respect his decision to leave the organization.”
Buckley said it was a tough decision for him to leave the department.
“I grew up in this place,” said Buckley. “But it seemed like the right time to go. I hope I made a difference.”
While he did not elaborate on the specifics of his decision to leave, Buckley admitted that events in the past year involving a dispute between his brother and Mulligan played at least some role.
“Obviously there have been things going on around here for some time, and at times it has not been real pleasant,” Buckley said. “To say that it did not take its toll would be a lie. I’ve tried to stay out of it, but over time all of it takes a toll.”
Buckley’s full-time job is as a lieutenant for the southwest suburban Pleasantview Fire Protection District. Mulligan is also a lieutenant for Pleasantview. While his position in Riverside is also considered part-time, Mulligan is the only salaried employee of the fire department. He makes about $85,000 as Riverside fire chief in addition to his job for Pleasantview.
Buckley worked part-time as a deputy chief in Riverside, where he was paid $42.68 an hour. His total gross pay from Riverside in 2010 was $57,164.
However, Buckley had a great deal of responsibility as the deputy chief, serving as the day-to-day operations chief of the department. Until July 2010, his brother, Matt Buckley, was also a deputy fire chief.
Matt Buckley asked to be demoted to captain at that time for what Scalera termed “personal reasons and his relationship with the chief.” Buckley made allegations, which have not been made public, against Mulligan. The allegations were serous enough that Scalera placed Mulligan on paid administrative leave last August. Mulligan was reinstated as chief in October following a review by the Riverside village board.
Matt Buckley remains a captain in the Riverside Fire Department, responsible for vehicle and facilities maintenance.
Asked if John Buckley’s resignation was connected to his brother’s complaint against the chief, Scalera said, “I don’t think there was a direct sentence related to the chief. It was his feeling that the department was moving in a different direction and the time had come for him to move on.”
Just how Buckley’s resignation will impact the command structure in the department is unclear. Both Scalera and Mulligan said Buckley’s resignation provided an opportunity to examine the departmental structure and perhaps make changes.
“One of the things I feel with John departing is looking at the whole structure of the department and giving members of the department opportunities,” Scalera said. “Coming from a community where everyone was cross-trained, I think it’s important to have that in place.”
Just who would replace Buckley as deputy chief is equally unclear. Matt Buckley would be an unlikely candidates given the events of last year. Bill Sherman, a captain and department veteran with more than 30 years of service, would seem to be a likely candidate.
Sherman was previously the department’s training officer. Last year, however, Mulligan replaced him with Dave Johnsen, who was hired from outside of the department, a move said to have irked some longtime Riverside firefighters.
The third captain in the department is Bill Ruska, who is responsible for Fire Station No. 2 as well as new firefighter training.
Mulligan said there’s no timetable for naming a replacement.
“We’ll make some deliberate decision,” Mulligan said. “I’ll work with the village manager and board if we make changes and what those changes will be.”