North Riverside Mayor Kenneth Krochmal on Jan. 28 filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to oust Rocco DeSantis from his position as village trustee.
Krochmal, who is petitioning the court in his official capacity as mayor, argues DeSantis is still an active duty police officer and, as such, can’t hold the office of trustee. His attorney is Thomas F. McGuire, a Long Grove-based lawyer who in the past has represented the village of North Riverside on police disciplinary matters.
McGuire will seek an immediate hearing on Krochmal’s petition in front of Judge Mary Lane Mikva on Feb. 15 at the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago.
Reached Friday afternoon, DeSantis said he had not yet seen the lawsuit, but said he wasn’t surprised.
“They will stoop to anything,” said DeSantis of his political opponents. “Why do they want me off so bad? What are they hiding?”
Being an active-duty police officer means that DeSantis is a member of the village’s executive branch of government, claims Krochmal, and creates a conflict between that role and DeSantis’ role as trustee, which is part of the village’s legislative branch.
DeSantis, a police sergeant, is on a disability pension. He has not worked as a patrolman since Dec. 26, 2006, when he was injured while trying to quell a large-scale brawl inside the North Riverside Park Mall. DeSantis considers himself effectively retired from the police force. He is paid through the North Riverside police pension fund and not through the village’s general operating fund.
The argument cited by Krochmal is the same one he and two other members of a local electoral board used in January to disqualify DeSantis from appearing on the April 9 ballot. DeSantis in December filed nominating papers to run for mayor.
DeSantis has appealed the local electoral board’s ruling to Cook County Circuit Court. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for Feb. 13. Krochmal is not running for re-election in April. If he is allowed to stay on the ballot, DeSantis will run against VIP Party candidate Hubert Hermanek Jr., who currently serves as a village trustee.
Krochmal brought the suit on Jan. 28 after his appeals for action on the part of the Illinois Attorney General and Cook County State’s Attorney were rebuffed. On Dec. 20, 2012, Krochmal sent a letter to both parties, urging them to file a complaint seeking DeSantis’ ouster from office.
The letter includes Krochmal’s argument pertaining to DeSantis holding incompatible positions. It also states that the incompatibility came to Krochmal’s attention when DeSantis threatened retaliation against a village employee if she did not retroactively raise the salary of a retired police lieutenant. Such a raise would have increased the retired police officer’s pension.
“When the finance director/treasurer [Sue Scarpiniti] brought to the attention of Trustee DeSantis that she could not do what was requested unless the board of trustees and the village president authorized what was requested, Trustee DeSantis threatened to remove her from her employment when he was elected to the office of village president in April of 2013,” the letter stated.
DeSantis made his request to Scarpiniti on Feb. 7, 2012 asking her to raise the retired officer’s “pension payment to reflect the 2009 and 2010 non-union pay raise.”
“It was voted on and approved at the board meeting,” DeSantis wrote. “Please do this today.”
A day later Scarpiniti replied the village board on Nov. 21, 2011 had approved retroactive raises for non-union employees who were still employed by the village as of Dec. 1 of that year.
DeSantis denied threatening Scarpiniti’s job.
“That’s a lie,” he said. “That is so ridiculous.”
DeSantis added that in February 2012 he had not yet decided to run for mayor. He also said he wanted any former employee who was entitled to a retroactive raise to get it.
“They’re fishing,” DeSantis said.
The attorney general’s office apparently did not respond to Krochmal’s letter. On Dec. 28, 2012 Cook County Deputy State’s Attorney Patrick Driscoll Jr. sent a letter to Krochmal stating that his office was not pursuing the matter.
“This office will be taking no action with regard to your request,” wrote Driscoll.
Krochmal in his letter to both the state’s attorney and attorney general states that he did not discuss its contents with DeSantis prior to filing the complaint “to avoid the claim that I am seeking a … complaint for political purposes.”