RIVERSIDE – 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.
The village of Riverside confirmed that in the incident referred to in the suit, 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.