THE LANDMARK VIEW
It’s unclear just what’s going on inside the Riverside Fire Department, but with the resignation of Deputy Fire Chief John Buckley, it’s clear that whatever it is needs to be addressed by the village board and village manager, soon.
Buckley has been devoted to the Riverside Fire Department, an employee for more than 20 years. He grew up and still lives in the village and holds the department close to his heart.
Despite being a full-time lieutenant for the Pleasantview Fire District in the southwest suburbs, he has held down posts in that department and as a paid-on-call member of the Riverside fire department for 19 years. It’s hard to believe that all of a sudden the jobs got to be too much for him. He’s been deputy fire chief for almost five years.
Then there’s last years blow up between Fire Chief Kevin Mulligan and Buckley’s brother, Matt.
Matt was also a part-time deputy chief until July 2010 when he asked to be demoted, citing problems he had with Mulligan. Mulligan was suspended with pay in August and the village board investigated Matt Buckley’s complaints.
It wasn’t until October that the board reinstated Mulligan as chief, but Village Manager Peter Scalera admitted at that time that the matter likely wasn’t resolved.
After talking with John Buckley it appears that it wasn’t the job itself that was pressing on him, it was everything revolving around the job – the drama between his brother and Mulligan, tension within the department.
Part of what’s contributing to the problem, from our perspective, is a chain-of-command issue. Mulligan reports not to Scalera but to the village president and trustees. With Scalera unable to make direct decisions regarding his highest ranking fire department employee, he must depend on the village board to make the decision for him.
That is a situation the village board ought to remedy as soon as possible. Months ago, Scalera addressed that issue and publicly stated he would like the chain-of-command amended to give him more control over the fire and police chief, who now report directly to the village board.
There’s no reason to delay changing that structure. The village board last fall moved to dissolve the recreation board in part to give Scalera hiring and firing power over the recreation department’s director, who until that time answered directly to the recreation board. It would seem as if the same issue is at stake here. It’s time to get that change made.
The loss of two deputy chiefs within a seven-month span also presents an opportunity to smooth the waters within the fire department. While Scalera and Mulligan will no doubt work closely together to restructure the department, giving Scalera final authority over the department would assist him in guiding that effort.
Riverside is fortunate, indeed, to have a department staffed by loyal, dedicated – and local – paid-on-call professionals. It saves the village hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and has proven to be a great asset.
Village leadership needs to step in and make sure the village can remain confident in its department and for members of the department to remain confident in each other.