Cuba Township Highway Commissioner Thomas Gooch is accused in a federal lawsuit of firing a woman as retaliation for her lodging a police report against him in a hair-pulling case.
Gooch was found not guilty in that case in 2011.
Debra Broderick filed the suit against Gooch and Cuba Township on March 16 in U.S. District Court in Chicago, claiming breach of contract, retaliatory discharge, violation of her First Amendment rights and defamation. Broderick seeks compensation including lost wages and benefits.
Gooch issued a statement on the suit Monday, saying Broderick "has trouble distinguishing between fact and fantasy." He said Cuba Township's insurance carrier will retain a top law firm to aggressively defend the case and a settlement won't be offered.
"Just as I was vindicated and found not guilty of Debra Broderick's charges last year, I expect these (lawsuit) charges to be dismissed," Gooch said.
Attorney Laurie J. Wasserman declined to comment on the suit she filed on behalf of Broderick.
In November, a Lake County judge acquitted Gooch of a battery charge that resulted after Broderick claimed he had yanked her hair and pulled an earring from her left ear, causing injury. Circuit Judge Mark Levitt found the prosecution didn't prove Gooch engaged in "insulting or provoking contact." No one who testified in the bench trial disputed Gooch pulled Broderick's hair just before she departed her job at Cuba Township headquarters March 11, 2011. Gooch, who testified he had previously dated Broderick, said his tug on her hair was a playful gesture, not battery.
In the federal lawsuit against Gooch and Cuba Township, Broderick states she was hired as a $21.50-an-hour intergovernmental relations coordinator for the highway department on Jan. 4, 2010. Gooch testified last year he was dating Broderick when he hired her and became her boss.
Broderick contends she was fired March 16, 2011 -- the day a Lake County judge's no-stalking order was delivered to Gooch on behalf of her and her son. Trial testimony showed Gooch hired Broderick's son for a part-time job at the Cuba Township Highway Department during the couple's dating relationship.
Court papers state Broderick was contracted to work for Cuba Township through May 1, 2013. However, the suit claims, the contract was breached when she was dismissed despite fulfilling all conditions and performing her duties.
"Defendants discharged (Broderick) in retaliation for (her) filing a compliant with the police department against defendant Gooch and petitioning the court for a no-stalking order on her behalf and on behalf of her son against defendant Gooch," the complaint says.