'A personal vendetta': Rolling Meadows city manager sues mayor, alleging employment retaliation
Rolling Meadows City Manager Barry Krumstok is suing Mayor Joe Gallo and the city, alleging he was placed on administrative leave and asked to resign in retaliation for his 2019 report that concluded then-Alderman Gallo harassed a fellow council member.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court, comes a day before the city council is set to hold a special meeting to determine Krumstok's future.
"It's unfortunate that the mayor has chosen this path," Krumstok said in a statement. "I love Rolling Meadows and have always done my best for this community, and for over 20 plus years I have dedicated professionalism and growth to this community."
Gallo didn't respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit Monday and didn't respond to earlier requests when talk of Krumstok's departure surfaced over the weekend.
The suit alleges retaliation stemming from Krumstok's internal city investigation into harassment claims against Gallo in early 2019. The report determined Gallo, then an alderman, verbally harassed then-Alderman Laura Majikes during a confrontation over Gallo seeking a grant for the city without council approval.
Aldermen later voted 5-1 to censure Gallo for the incident involving Majikes, with Gallo casting the lone "no" vote.
Krumstok alleges in the suit that Gallo, since becoming mayor in April 2019, has threatened him a half-dozen times with termination because of the 2019 report. According to the suit, Gallo told Krumstok "you never should have done that investigation."
Krumstok said city code makes him responsible for investigating allegations of harassment and discrimination made by city employees and elected officials.
"This is a suit about a personal vendetta and an abuse of power by a mayor who has exceeded the bounds of his authority," said Keith Hunt, Krumstok's attorney, in a statement.
Hunt said Gallo didn't give Krumstok a reason for his termination.
According to the suit, Gallo placed Krumstok on administrative leave without pay Thursday and banned him from city hall, while announcing to city department heads and the senior staff Friday that the city had severed ties with Krumstok. Gallo told Krumstok that if he didn't agree to resign by noon Sunday, the mayor would modify the agenda for the upcoming council meeting Tuesday to seek removal of the manager.
An agenda for that special council meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. or at the conclusion of the regular 7:30 p.m. meeting, has an open-session action item for "consideration and council action regarding the employment of a specific employee of the public body."
Krumstok says in the suit that the mayor removed him from the position without lawful authority, because under the city code, only the full council can do so.
Krumstok, 51, a city employee since 1999 and city manager since 2010, has seven months left on his current $195,794-a-year contract.
Hunt said neither he nor Krumstok plan to attend the meeting.
"They're going to do what they're going to do," Hunt said. "(The suit) puts the board on notice that we're claiming -- whether you consider the termination a fait accompli or is about to take place -- that the mayor is doing it for retaliatory reasons, and if the rest of the board wants to sign on and become complicit in that retaliation, then I guess that's a decision they'll make at the time."
"But we've put them on notice that that type of a termination is unlawful," Hunt said.
Besides the retaliation charges, the complaint also alleges religious discrimination. When Krumstok, who is Jewish, advised Gallo that he would be taking a day off to celebrate a Jewish holiday, Gallo would respond, "Oh! Another Jewish holiday?" or "Just another Jewish holiday" or "Another Jewish holiday already?" or similar remarks, according to the suit.
The suit demands a jury trial and seeks Krumstok's reinstatement as city manager.
City Finance Director Melissa Gallagher confirmed Gallo has named her acting city manager, as in past practice during Krumstok's absence. As to Krumstok's job status, Gallagher said only Krumstok is "out of the office."