Posts Tagged Fire Chief Spencer Kimura

Riverside Fire Chief terminated

Excerpts from

Spencer Kimura was quietly fired from his job as chief of the Riverside Fire Department last week, shortly before the village board’s meeting on July 16. The village has not announced Kimura’s termination, but it was confirmed by village officials on Monday after a reporter noticed Kimura’s name scrubbed from the village’s website.

Village Manager Jessica Frances, who terminated Kimura in the late afternoon on July 16, had little to say about his removal as chief. Village President Ben Sells also was tight-lipped about the removal of Kimura as chief, saying, “It’s an internal personnel matter, and I’m not going to comment.”

According to Frances, the village is not providing Kimura with a severance package and there is no separate agreement. Kimura — hired in 2011 to steady the department after a tumultuous couple of years that ended when his predecessor, Kevin Mulligan, was fired — did not have a contract. His annual salary was $80,371.

Matthew Buckley, who served as Kimura’s deputy fire chief, has been named interim fire chief. Buckley, whose full-time job is deputy police chief in neighboring Lyons, will also serve part time in the fire chief’s role.

The move, said Frances, will allow her to assess the command structure of the fire department and whether any changes need to be made structurally with regard to the department, which traditionally has been staffed by a part-time chief and paid-on-call firefighters. Kimura worked 32 hours per week, according to Frances.

Frances has not launched a search for a new fire chief at this time.

A resident of the north suburbs, the 57-year-old Kimura, never entirely meshed in Riverside. A retired battalion chief with the Glenview Fire Department, Kimura was brought in to smooth the waters after Mulligan’s termination, which had split the department into factions.

Mulligan ended up suing the village and Buckley, winning a $350,000 settlement to drop the suit.

But the resentment didn’t end there. In 2014, four Riverside firefighters — including three fire lieutenants — filed a federal lawsuit against the village and Kimura, claiming they were disciplined unfairly in part because of their loyalty to Mulligan. That suit was dismissed completely by a U.S. District Court judge earlier this year.

Buckley, whose concerns over Mulligan’s on-the-job behavior triggered the village’s termination action, said he is working collaboratively with all members of the command staff.

“I’m utilizing the officer corps in a collaborative effort to make sure projects and services are maintained at the highest levels,” Buckley said. “Every one of the supervisors are on board with working collaboratively to make sure everything gets accomplished properly,” Buckley said. “We are all looking to move beyond the past and move forward.”

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Riverside firefighters file suit (more)

The Riverside Brookfield Landmark has an article about four firefighters in Riverside filing a lawsuit against the village.

Four Riverside firefighters, disciplined earlier this year for their actions during an incident at a North Riverside tavern in December, are now demanding punitive cash damages from the village, claiming they were specifically targeted by Fire Chief Spencer Kimura because they supported his now-fired predecessor.

Lt. Thomas Bensfield, Lt. William Ruska, Lt. Ray Williamson, and Firefighter A.J. Ruska in April filed suit against Kimura and the village in Cook County Circuit Court, asking a judge to vacate disciplinary measures taken against them and compensating them for lost wages following a Dec. 14, 2013 off-duty incident at a North Riverside tavern.

On July 14, the case was moved to U.S. District court after the firefighters in June filed an amended lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming that Kimura’s disciplinary actions violated their First Amendment rights — that Kimura disciplined them because of “their actual or perceived political association with former Fire Chief Kevin Mulligan.”

The amended lawsuit, in addition to reversing the disciplinary measures taken against the firefighters, demands “compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, costs of suit and exemplary damages as warranted.”

In March and April, Kimura suspended the three lieutenants for three days each and suspended Firefighter A.J. Ruska for 21 days, giving him a “last chance” warning in the process.

A.J. Ruska was disciplined for violating the department’s code of conduct: “behavior unbecoming a Riverside firefighter.” The lieutenants were disciplined for failing to “issue discipline to a subordinate.”

The subordinate in question, identified in the lawsuit as Firefighter Michael Rerucha, is not a party to the lawsuit.

Rerucha, according to a police report filed in North Riverside following the incident, got into a scuffle with an off-duty Cicero police officer, allegedly punching him in the head. The police officer refused to file charges against Rerucha, according to North Riverside police.

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Firefighters file suit in Riverside has an article about a lawsuit filed by a Riverside firefighter and several officers:

Four Riverside firefighters are asking the Cook County Circuit Court to reverse a disciplinary decision against them stemming from an incident that occurred after a firefighter Christmas party at a local bar in December last year. Firefighter A.J. Ruska, Lt. Thomas Bensfield, Lt. William Ruska and Lt. Ray Williamson are named as plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed Tuesday.

The suit alleges that the firefighters were disciplined for “not engaging in official business while consuming alcohol while off duty at a bar.” Further, the suit alleges that Lt. William Ruska was not at the bar at the time of the incident.

According to media reports, the firefighters were celebrating at the Sweet Spot, 2531 Desplaines Ave., North Riverside, on Dec. 14, 2013 when one of the firefighters named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit allegedly inappropriately touched a female patron of the bar. An altercation followed and William Ruska, Bensfield and Williamson were each give three-day suspensions on March 26 for not intervening.

According to a memo from Fire Chief Spencer Kimura included in the suit, the firefighters were suspended for failing to discipline a subordinate employee when required. A.J. Ruska received a three-day suspension April 17. He received a 21-day suspension for conduct unbecoming of a Riverside firefighter, a violation of the fire department’s code of conduct. The lawsuit alleges that the language of the village’s code of conduct is unconstitutionally vague and that Ruska received enhanced discipline because he allegedly did not disclose a license suspension in February 2013. The suit said another firefighter did not receive a similar punishment after failing to disclose a conviction for driving under the influence and license suspension.

Additionally, the suit alleges the firefighters named in the lawsuit were not afforded the right to counsel at a disciplinary hearing.

The firefighters are seeking for the disciplinary charges to be reversed, compensation for lost wages and attorney’s fees, as well as invalidation of the department’s code of conduct.

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