Without a word of discussion, the Riverside village board voted Monday night unanimously to terminate the contract of Fire Chief Kevin Mulligan, ending his 29-year career with the department. Mulligan has been fire chief since 2006.
The vote was included as part of the board’s consent agenda. The resolution authorizing the termination of Mulligan’s contract reads that the board has “determined that it is in the best interest of the village to terminate its employment agreement with the fire chief.”
While the village considers the action final, it’s unclear whether the matter has been completely settled. Monday’s vote to terminate Mulligan constituted unilateral action by the village board, according to the terms of Mulligan’s contract.
“Kevin Mulligan has been a staunch employee of the village for a very long time,” said James Reynolds, the village’s board’s public safety chairman, who would not comment on the specific reasons for the vote to terminate. “In some ways I’m sorry to see him go. It’s just how it is.”
Mulligan and the village agreed on a three-year contract on April 19, 2010. The contract paid Mulligan a salary of $84,614 annually, gave him unrestricted use of a village-owned vehicle, an $800-per-year uniform allowance, and insurance coverage for him and his family as stipulated in the village’s personnel manual.
The contract calls for Mulligan to be paid a three-month severance and unused sick leave. According to Village Manager Peter Scalera, the village would pay out about $33,000 to Mulligan to sever the contract.
Unlike cases where both sides hammer out a separation agreement that includes a severance package for the employee and protection from a future lawsuit against the village, Monday’s action provides no such protection against a lawsuit for Riverside.
Scalera said he was unsure what Mulligan’s plans are, but said he personally felt Monday night’s vote might not be the final word.
“I know from the village’s point of view it’s over, but as for Kevin, probably not,” Scalera said. “That’s just my personal feeling.”
Calls to Mulligan’s cellphone seeking comment were not returned.
Mulligan’s ouster was months in the making. The village board first considered action last fall after Mulligan had been suspended with pay in August. Scalera placed Mulligan on administrative leave after unspecified allegations were made against the chief by a colleague in the department.
That colleague is believed to be Capt. Matthew Buckley, who requested a demotion from assistant chief last July for what Scalera called “personal reasons and his relationship with the chief.”
In October, both Buckley and Mulligan along with their lawyers met in closed session with the village board for three hours. After that hearing, Mulligan was reinstated as chief. Matthew Buckley remains a captain of the department.
However, things turned sour again just a few months, In January, later when Assistant Fire Chief John Buckley, Matthew’s brother, announced he was resigned his post after more than 20 years as a Riverside firefighter.
John Buckley’s last day on the job was Feb. 18. Five days later, Scalera again placed Mulligan on paid administrative leave based on an unspecified claim Mulligan reportedly made to the village manager.
Scalera investigated the claim and submitted his findings to the village board on March 21.
Since Feb. 23, Capt. William Sherman has been officer in charge of the day-to-day operations of the fire department. Scalera said Tuesday that he is finalizing a job description for the fire chief’s position and will soon post the job opening.
“I anticipate going out and doing a recruitment for the position,” Scalera said.
While he will consider in-house candidates for the job, Scalera confirmed he is not limiting his search to current employees.
There is no timetable yet on hiring a new chief, although Scalera said he’d like to complete that process as soon as possible.
“By the end of the week I’ll have a more definitive timeline,” he said.
Hiring the new fire chief will also be Scalera’s call after the village board voted unanimously on Monday night to change the village ordinance regarding the hiring and firing of the village police and fire chiefs.
Previously, the chiefs reported directly to the village president and trustees. Under the new law, the village manager has that power.