The Chicago Tribune has an article about the Highwood FD deputy chief who has been on an administrative leave for the past two years.

Nearly two years after Highwood placed Deputy Fire Chief Ronald Pieri on paid leave amid allegations that he received compensation for hours that he didn’t work, the city manager took the first step toward suspending Pieri without pay. Highwood City Manager Scott Hartman filed a formal complaint Friday with the city’s Board of Fire and Police Commission seeking to suspend Pieri as the longtime city employee awaits trial on felony criminal charges of theft and official misconduct.

Hartman also asked that Pieri be suspended from his job immediately, but the three-member commission instead agreed to delay a decision until a formal hearing Oct. 8. “You have the authority to suspend him without pay today,” Hartman’s lawyer, Jolanta Zinevich, argued. “You don’t want a person getting paid for not working while waiting on these charges.”

Zinevich said that Pieri has “been interrogated three times” in a recent city investigation and that he would be reimbursed for lost pay should he be found not guilty of theft charges. But Pieri’s lawyer, Richard Blass, said that he had just learned about Friday’s meeting this week and asked that Hartman submit his motion for suspension in writing. “Mr. Pieri should be given the opportunity to review the charges and respond,” Blass said, adding that city officials have “sat and stared at this for two years.”

Pieri’s annual salary is about $66,000, Blass said. Though Pieri’s title is deputy fire chief, at the time he was placed on leave, he was the highest-ranking member of the Fire Department, city officials have said.

According to Hartman’s complaint with the commission, Pieri “falsely claimed and/or reported” compensatory time “for work that he could have performed (at least in part)” during his regular shift and received full pay “without fully working the shifts he was assigned to work” and “without properly reporting” benefits like sick or holiday pay.

Those alleged actions cost the city’s taxpayers “some $50,000” since Jan. 1, 2007, the complaint states.

A few of his supporters in attendance later said they believe Pieri is being targeted for political reasons. Pieri’s wife, Kathy Murphy-Pieri, is a former city alderman who lost her bid for the mayor’s seat this year.

The Fire and Police Commission members said they, too, needed time to read Hartman’s complaint. “We have been basically kept in the dark as a commission,” said member Alan Lasday. “This is the first written information I’ve seen on this.”

Pieri is due in Lake County court on the criminal charges Monday.