2 former employees sue Fox Lake for political retaliation
Two former Fox Lake employees are suing the village and Mayor Donny Schmit, alleging they were fired from their jobs in retaliation for their political support of Schmit's opponent in the 2013 spring election, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.
Former building commissioner Frank Urbina and his administrative assistant, Tina Williams, are seeking compensatory pay and punitive damages in the wrongful termination lawsuit, claiming they were fired for supporting the re-election bid of former Mayor Ed Bender. They also are seeking to have their employment reinstated.
Pete Jakstas, owner of the Mineola Hotel, Lounge and Marina, was also named in the lawsuit because it's alleged he bartered his political support for Schmit in exchange for Schmit's agreement to terminate Urbina and Williams.
Jakstas and Schmit declined to comment about the lawsuit, claiming they had not seen it. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The lawsuit claims Urbina and Williams were "strong and outspoken supporters" of Bender in his 2013 campaign, and that both expected to keep their jobs regardless of the election's outcome. Urbina was hired in 2008 and promoted to building commissioner in 2010, while Williams was hired to work in the building department in 2005.
According to the lawsuit, Schmit told supporters and others that employees who backed Bender would be fired once he was sworn in to office.
Schmit beat Bender in the municipal election by 1,099 votes to 610, and took office May 14. Williams and Urbina were fired May 15, the lawsuit states.
It also claims Jakstas agreed to support Schmit after Bender ordered Urbina to perform a building inspection at Jakstas' business in 2011. That inspection led to the Mineola being shut down and condemned following numerous court battles in 2012.
The agreement to fire Urbina and Williams was the "quid pro quo for Jakstas' financial and political support" of Schmit, the suit alleges.
In addition, the lawsuit claims Urbina was an appointed employee and deserved a hearing in front of the village board before his termination. The lawsuit also states Williams can only be terminated by a majority vote of the village board.
Attorney Keith Hunt, who is representing Urbina and Williams, did not comment Thursday.