Lawyer: Damages in Orland Hills Whistleblower Suit Could Cost Town ‘A Couple Hundred Thousand’
Lawsuit claims political clout led to charges being tossed, and an officer was fired for reporting it to the FBI.
A former Orland Hills police officer's lawsuit against the village and police chief, with claims that a traffic arrest was tossed because of political connections, could cost a large sum if the village loses.
David Kristofek says he was ordered to hand over paperwork and delete all computer data on two traffic charges against a man whose mother is a former mayor of a nearby town. The woman asked that her son not be arrested and he was released from custody without charges, according to Kristofek's lawsuit.
Kristofek was fired from the department on April 21, and claims that his termination was retaliation for notifying the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the tossed charges.
“There’s a question of back pay for the time he’s been off the force,” said attorney Jerome Marconi Jr., who is representing Kristofek. “But punitive damages remain unknown for now. As time goes by, it adds up. And a couple hundred thousand is not out of question by the time this is finished.”
On Nov. 12, 2010, about two months after Kristofek was hired as a part-time police officer for Orland Hills, Kristofek ran a license plate on a 2000 Kia vehicle, and found the registration was suspended, according to the suit. Kristofek pulled over the car, and found a man driving and a woman sitting up front. The man did not have proof of insurance, and Kristofek arrested him.
The man told the officer he is the son of a former mayor of the area and asked to be released, the suit claims.
Kristofek was then handed a cell phone, and he heard a woman tell him she is the driver’s mother and she also asked that he not be arrested.
But Kristofek continued to take the man into custody and towed the car, according to the lawsuit.
Kristofek was filling out paperwork at the police station when two Orland Hills officers told him to stop, to give all paperwork to Orland Hills Deputy Chief Michael Blaha and delete anything about the traffic stop written into the station’s computers, according to the suit.
A couple of days later Blaha told Kristofek that the arrest was done well, but releasing the driver was a decision "above you and I," according to the suit.
Kristofek decided to report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he encountered a Police Law Institute training question that cited case law suggesting a police officer could be charged with official misconduct for not completing an arrest similar to the traffic stop.
On April 21, 2011, about three weeks after taking the training, and after telling other Orland Hills officers that he spoke with the FBI, Orland Hills Police Chief Thomas Scully confronted Kristofek, the suit claims.
Scully gave him a choice between resigning or being fired from the force, and said he couldn’t trust Kristofek anymore because he spoke with people outside the department about the release, according to the suit.
Kristofek refused to resign, and he was immediately escorted out of the police station, the suit claims.
The Village of Orland Hills objected to Kristofek’s claim for unemployment benefits on the basis that Kristofek was “insubordinate,” according to the suit.
The Village of Orland Hills and Chief Scully are named as defendants, and are accused of violating the Illinois Whistleblower’s Act, retaliatory discharge of Kristofek and violating Kristofek’s rights to free speech.
Kristofek’s attorneys requested a full jury trial, as well as compensating damages for emotional duress and damage to reputation, back pay for lost working hours, a reinstatement to the police force and payment of all legal fees.
Scully was served with a summons on Sept. 22, according to Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown’s office.
Scully did not respond to several messages requesting comment.
The next scheduled court date is Oct. 24.