The city of Des Plaines has reached a $187,500 settlement with a former deputy police chief who claimed in a federal lawsuit that he was forced out of his job for speaking out about the cover-up of police misconduct.
Former Deputy Chief Richard Rozkuszka argued in the August 2012 suit that he was forced out of the police department a year before for reporting the misconduct of now fired police officer John Bueno, who was under Rozkuszka's supervision as the overseer of tactical operations.
City Manager Mike Bartholomew on Friday said the city's insurance carrier favored settling the suit, though he still called Rozkuszka's complaint a "frivolous lawsuit."
"I would've loved to go right to the end with it, but I realized it wasn't my money they were spending," Bartholomew said. "We were very strong on the case, and I'm confident we would've prevailed. But it would've cost us a fair amount of money to prove that case."
Rozkuszka couldn't be reached Friday, and his attorney Keith Hunt didn't return a call seeking comment.
In the suit, Rozkuszka argued that Bueno "repeatedly engaged in violent and improper conduct while on duty, including beating incarcerated arrestees while in custody, and in some circumstances, while handcuffed." Rozkuszka said when he reported Bueno's misconduct to then-Police Chief Jim Prandini, the chief ignored it and threatened to discipline Rozkuszka if he took action against Bueno.
"The city of Des Plaines adopted a custom, policy or practice of condoning illegal conduct and the beating of prisoners, and of engaging in a cover-up to hide illegal conduct as well as to punish whistle-blowers for speaking out against such illegal practices," Rozkuszka stated in the original lawsuit.
Rozkuszka's suit was filed against the city, Prandini, then-Mayor Marty Moylan, and former City Manager Jason Slowinski. Prandini, Moylan and Slowinski were later dropped as defendants.
Moylan said at the time the suit was filed that Rozkuszka's allegations were "preposterous," and when city officials heard about potential wrongdoing, they contacted an outside law firm to do an investigation.
That led to Bueno's firing in March 2012 for misconduct, and the four-month suspension of a second officer, Andy Contreras, who was also accused in a suspect's beating with Bueno.
Last year, the city settled a suit brought by that suspect, Sergio Toutges, for $64,000.
In 2012, the city settled a case for $32,500 brought by a resident who said she was falsely arrested and mistreated by three police officers, including Bueno.
More than half the Rozkuszka settlement, $100,000, is going to his attorney, Bartholomew said.