Riverside Fire Chief Spencer Kimura has named Capt. Matthew Buckley, a longtime member of the department, as his assistant chief.

On Dec. 22, Kimura announced the decision, which capped a search process that included interviews and the evaluation of three internal candidates, two captains and a lieutenant.

A panel of three people, including Kimura and two north suburban assistant chiefs, interviewed the candidates and judged their qualifications and leadership abilities. Buckley was the unanimous top choice, Kimura said.

“What impressed the panel and myself is his strong ethical values,” Kimura said. “He has a strong commitment and has demonstrated by his actions to live up to what he believes in.”

The position of assistant chief is a part-time job, and Buckley will continue to be paid hourly. He also works full time as a police officer for the village of Lyons. Kimura said he expects Buckley to be sworn in as assistant chief at the next meeting of the Riverside Village Board on Jan. 16.

The post of assistant chief is not exactly new for Buckley, a lifelong Riverside resident and a paid-on-call member of the Riverside Fire Department since August of 1988.

From May 2006 until July 2010, Buckley served as one of the department’s two assistant chiefs under Fire Chief Kevin Mulligan. But in 2010, he requested to be demoted to captain after filing a complaint against Mulligan.

That complaint eventually led to Mulligan being suspended from his post pending an investigation by the village board. Mulligan was reinstated as chief in October 2010, but was suspended again in early 2011 and finally fired in April.

In November 2011 Mulligan filed a job discrimination lawsuit against the village and against Buckley, claiming he was falsely accused of drinking on the job by Buckley and that the village fired him because they believed those allegations, even though they weren’t proven.

Mulligan claims in the lawsuit that Buckley filed the complaint to portray him “as an alcoholic and thereby advance his own career.” He also claims the village violated the Americans with Disabilities Act for firing him because they perceived Mulligan had a disability – alcoholism – even though Mulligan denies this is the case.

The case is being heard in U.S. District Court; a status hearing is set for Jan. 20.

“I told him, quite frankly, the timing sucks, but Matt has my trust and the respect of me and the people he’s led,” Kimura said. “I know he has a tough battle, but I told him he has my utmost confidence.”

The other assistant chief from May 2006 to February 2011 was Buckley’s brother, John, who resigned his post as assistant chief in part because of the fallout in the fire department after the dispute between his brother and Mulligan.

In July, John Buckley was named deputy chief of the southwest suburban Pleasantview Fire Protection District, where Mulligan continues to work as a lieutenant.