Riverside’s former fire chief is suing the village and one of his former assistant chiefs for more than $100,000, claiming he was harassed and wrongfully terminated from his job earlier this year.
Kevin Mulligan filed his lawsuit on Nov. 16 in federal district court. The case has been assigned to Judge Ronald A. Guzman.
Mulligan claims the village violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by believing that Mulligan was alcohol-dependent and fired him due to that perception, even though the village never concluded that he drank on the job and despite three evaluations that concluded Mulligan was not alcohol-dependent.
The former chief claims in the suit that Matthew Buckley, who is a captain for the Riverside Fire Department and was previously an assistant chief under Mulligan, made multiple complaints to three different village managers that Mulligan was drinking on the job.
According to the lawsuit, Buckley hired a private investigator to follow Mulligan and videotape his actions at various “locations in and around Riverside.” The tapes allegedly showed Mulligan drinking alcohol while on the job, something Mulligan claims is false.
At a special hearing before the Riverside Village Board on Oct. 14, 2010, trustees “found Mulligan not guilty” of the charges against him and Mulligan was restored to his position as chief.
In his suit, Mulligan claims Buckley pursued the charges against him “to portray Mulligan as an alcoholic and thereby advance his own career.”
In addition to contending that the village violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, Mulligan charges his firing was in retaliation for complaining to village officials that Buckley was harassing him and that the village of Riverside was creating a hostile work environment, with the village president and trustees “conspiring” to fire him.
Mulligan also argues that Buckley’s false complaints against him constitute defamation and that the village’s actions “were pursuant to a custom, policy and practice to discriminate against employees that complain of discrimination and/or harassment in the workplace.”
The Riverside Village Board voted unanimously on April 4 to fire Mulligan, who had been fire chief since 2006 and was a 29-year employee of the department.
Since taking over the department, Mulligan was suspended with pay on three occasions, the last coming in February as village officials weighed what action to take.
According to the lawsuit, Village Manager Peter Scalera in March offered Mulligan a “resignation package,” which apparently was never agreed to by Mulligan.
When notified he was fired by Scalera, according to the lawsuit, “Mulligan’s termination was due to the board and thereby the village’s belief that Mulligan was disabled due to alcohol dependency and in retaliation for complaining of harassment.”