The village of Riverside for the first time is using an ordinance passed in 2020 as the basis for a lawsuit it has filed against a local homeowner whose property has been declared a ‘chronic nuisance.’ The village is asking the court to order compliance or having the homeowner risk heavy fines or even eviction. | Bob Uphues/Editor

The village of Riverside has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order a local homeowner to remedy a host of health safety, fire safety and building code violations at his property or face fines of $75,000 or more and penalties including vacating the premises or demolishing the residence.

The property at issue is 225 Millbridge Road, a two-story, single-family Prairie-style home owned by 64-year-old Robert Golba, who has lived there for more than 40 years.

According to the lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on Nov. 14, Riverside police responded to 225 Millbridge Road a total of 122 times between June 2020 and July 2022, for incidents ranging from loud noise complaints and unwanted subjects to stray dogs, fights, miscellaneous disturbances and medical emergencies.

Riverside police responded to the address 32 more times from Aug. 23 to Nov. 2, the Landmark has learned through a public records request. 

However, police have responded to a host of incidents at the home going back at least a decade.

In 2013, Golba was charged with a felony count of violating an order of protection after he reportedly fell, while intoxicated, on top of his 81-year-old mother during an argument, breaking her hip.

Riverside police in 2019 charged a 43-year-old man at the residence with battery after another man accused him of trying to hit him over the head with a garbage can and damaging lawn furniture. The arrestee was arrested three times that day – twice in Riverside and once in Lyons.

In March 2021, police found Golba unconscious and severely injured from a fall inside his home. He spent two weeks in the hospital, but police determined the injuries were the result of an accident, not an assault.

As a result of the complaints and because the village has not seen an improvement in the situation at the home, Riverside Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley on Aug. 22 obtained signed consent for the village to inspect the property, revealing violations from rotting outdoor deck boards, to a disconnected water heater, exposed electrical wiring, mold and mildew on walls and a non-functioning bathroom. Golba also reportedly acknowledged the presence of bedbugs inside the home.

On Sept. 30, after not obtaining a plan of action from Golba to fix the violations, Buckley served Golba with a notice declaring the home a chronic nuisance, which gave him 10 days to remedy the nuisance or risk the village filing suit to force compliance.

The lawsuit asks the court to impose a fine of $1,000 per day since Aug. 22 for the house being a chronic nuisance and for fines of $750 per day for each health, fire and building code violation not remedied since Aug. 22.

According to Village Attorney Michael Marrs, while the lawsuit does include language regarding evicting the home’s inhabitants, prohibiting anyone from using the home as a dwelling for up to a year and even threatening the home’s demolition, that’s not the ultimate goal.

“The endgame is to stop what has essentially become a short-term rental and to address the health and safety violations,” Marrs said. “We’re not trying to tear down the house.”

As of late last week, no hearing date had been set for the case. Once that happens, Marrs said the village will file a motion for a preliminary injunction. Golba told the Landmark he does not have an attorney.

“I’m lost for what I’m supposed to do,” Golba said. “I don’t know what to do at this point.”

Since the death of Golba’s mother, Lillian, in 2019, Robert has invited others to live with him, some of them ending up as squatters. In an interview with the Landmark last week, Golba said he allowed people to live with him because he is disabled and needs assistance.

“I let them because I wanted help and I have health issues,” Golba said, adding that one of his recent tenants, Caroline O’Brien, was supposed to serve as a caregiver.

Golba is named as a defendant in the village’s lawsuit along with O’Brien and other reported residents of the home, including William S. Bellavia, Harold Labeda, William Liszeo and Frank Rogus.

At the time the Landmark interviewed Golba at his home on Nov. 18, only Bellavia was still living there, he said, though Bellavia was not present at that time.

Golba alleged to the Landmark that he had been assaulted by people who had lived in his home since his mother’s death, including recently. Riverside police charged O’Brien with domestic battery on the night of Nov. 16 after Golba called police to report O’Brien had allegedly struck him.

O’Brien, 45, is on the Illinois State Police’s list of state residents convicted of violent crimes against children. When she was 28, O’Brien was convicted of aggravated battery to an infant, according to the Illinois State Police database.

“I’m just so sorry I can’t control other people,” Golba said of the number of times police have had to respond to the property as a result of someone either at the home or a neighbor calling to lodge a complaint.

The lawsuit against Golba and his tenants is a first for the village in attempting a legal remedy to a property it has determined to be a “chronic nuisance.”

Riverside trustees passed the chronic nuisance law in May 2020 to give the village more leverage in getting the owners of problem properties to remedy the issues or face harsh penalties.

The law was pushed at the time by then-Police Chief Thomas Weitzel for properties where police repeatedly respond without the situation improving. According to the ordinance, the village can declare a property a nuisance if it has been written up at least twice within a 12-month period.