Seven DuPage County sheriff's deputies filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing Sheriff John Zaruba of retaliating against them for supporting union efforts and refusing to fund his campaigns.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago by longtime deputies James Williams, Joseph DelGiudice, Stjepan Josic, Mark Wolenberg, Eric Koty, Guy Decastris and Thomas Weiser. All the plaintiffs allege they were demoted or passed up for promotions because they didn't support Zaruba's political interests.
"The retaliation against the plaintiffs continues to this day," the lawsuit states. "The substantial investment made by the taxpayers of DuPage County into the professional development of these loyal law enforcement officers continues to be wasted."
The complaint, which also names Major Daniel Bilodeau as a defendant, comes a month after the county disclosed an $800,000 settlement with Susan Lakics, a deputy who claimed she was denied a promotion because of sexual discrimination and a political beef between the sheriff and her husband, former West Chicago Mayor Steve Lakics.
The sheriff's office didn't respond to a request for comment on the latest allegations.
The state's attorney's office, which represents the county in civil matters, and the attorneys for the complaining deputies declined to make statements.
According to the lawsuit, the seven plaintiffs faced retaliation for their "multiyear efforts to advance collective bargaining rights" and their "unwillingness to contribute financially" to Zaruba's campaigns. In some cases, employees were demoted or denied promotions because of their support for another candidate or for filing labor grievances, the complaint alleges.
DelGiudice, a 28-year veteran named Employee of the Year in 2008, claims he was denied eligibility to become a sergeant despite having served on the DuPage County Major Crimes Task Force and handling numerous felony and murder cases as a detective.
"Those who passed over Deputy DelGiudice were, unlike Deputy DelGiudice, financial supporters of Sheriff Zaruba and did not support collective bargaining efforts, as did Deputy DelGiudice," the suit alleges. "When (he) informed Sheriff Zaruba in person that he couldn't support the sheriff financially but he worked hard, the sheriff replied that Deputy DelGuidice's good work meant nothing to him."
Williams, an employee since 1994 and a sergeant since 2004, alleges he was demoted from detective to court security officer two years ago after becoming involved in collective bargaining efforts on behalf of sergeants and lieutenants. The complaint says he also refused Zaruba's "invitations" to contribute to his campaign.
Josic, an employee since 1997, contends his position on the bomb squad was eliminated after being an "active and public" supporter of Zaruba's 2006 political opponent, Tim Connell. The lawsuit says Josic's position on the bomb squad was later filled by a deputy who supported Zaruba but had no bomb squad training.
"The defendants' treatment of Deputy Josic is humiliating to him given his extensive training, experience and expertise, and a waste of taxpayers' investment in his professional development," the lawsuit says.
The complaint seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Lawsuit: Defendant says his position was eliminated after he supported sheriff's opponent