Deputy fired by ex-Sheriff Pat Perez in line for $650,000 settlement
A legal dispute between two former Kane County employees may now result in one of the largest legal settlements in recent county history.
Kane County Board members gave the state's attorney's office permission this week to offer a $650,000 settlement to former sheriff's deputy Steven Yahnke. He filed a lawsuit in the summer of 2012 that has bounced through both state and federal courts.
The court battle stems back to 2008. Former Sheriff Pat Perez fired Yahnke for not following orders to terminate a second job Yahnke had in Maple Park. Yahnke said Perez's true motivation for firing him came from Yahnke's support for Perez's Republican opponent, fellow deputy Kevin Williams, in the 2006 race for sheriff. Yahnke had also openly contemplated his own run for the seat.
About six months after Perez won the election, Yahnke was injured on the job. An investigation about the failure of Yahnke to submit a travel request when off work because of his injury and a dispute about comp time and a light duty assignment after the injury were all cited by Perez in firing Yahnke.
But a deposition by Steven Ziman in 2012 fueled Yahnke's pursuit of a lawsuit. Ziman was the former undersheriff, acting as Perez's second-in-command. During the deposition, Ziman described a conversation he had with Perez about proper discipline for Yahnke. Ziman quoted Perez as saying during that conversation, "I am going to fire (Yahnke) because someday he is going to run against me for sheriff."
Yahnke then sued the county for violating his free speech and civil rights. Perez stood behind his assertion that he fired Yahnke for cause throughout the legal battle.
After the county board approved the $650,000 payout, Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said he believes Yahnke and his attorneys will accept the deal.
"This is a case that has been litigated extensively by both Mr. Yahnke and his lawyers and us on behalf of the county," McMahon said. "We're hopeful that this concludes a really lengthy period of litigation in both state and federal court."
McMahon said he could not yet speak to any other terms involved with the settlement. Yahnke sought reinstatement to his position as part of the original lawsuit. The full terms of the agreement will become public if and when both sides sign the document.
Before the pending settlement, the case was set to return to trial April 3.
Yahnke's attorneys, at the Chicago-based Delany Law, could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.