Retired Sergeant Alleges He is Being Denied Benefits in Retaliation for Filing a Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit
The Village of North Riverside and its Interim Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti are retaliating against Detective Sergeant Frank Schmalz for filing a civil rights lawsuit by refusing to follow a court order directing the Village to pay his line-of-duty disability pension benefits, according to a new federal lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks over $60,000 in accrued wages the Village has also refused to pay. Jeff and his law firm represent Schmalz.
According to the complaint, Schmalz worked as a police officer for the Village of North Riverside for nearly 30 years. After suffering several on-the-job injuries, Schmalz applied for disability benefits and, in 2016, the North Riverside Police Pension Fund awarded him a line-of-duty disability pension. Schmalz applied to the Village directly to receive the benefits, but the Village denied the application. Schmalz sued seeking a court ruling that he was entitled to the benefits. In November 2020, a Cook County court sided with Schmalz.
According to the lawsuit, despite the court ruling, the Village is still refusing to pay Schmalz the benefits he was awarded.
Why would the Village withhold disability pension benefits for an injured police officer in defiance of a court ruling that the benefits were owed? The complaint alleges the Village is retaliating against Schmalz because he filed a separate federal civil rights lawsuit against the Village.
According to the complaint, shortly before the benefits were awarded by a Cook County court, a federal court denied the Village’s motion to dismiss the civil rights case which will now be decided by a jury.
Scarpiniti testified for the Village in the federal civil rights case and the complaint alleges she is responsible for withholding the benefits.
Schmalz sued under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Under the First Amendment’s right to free speech, citizens have a right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Schmalz also brought claims under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.
The dispute between Schmalz and the Village started in 2012 when a new slate of candidates called the Transparency and Accountability in Politics party ran for office in the 2013 election. TAP party candidates wanted to seize power from the Voters Improvement Party candidates who have held power for many years.
Then-mayor and VIP member Ken Krochmal was not running for re-election so a new mayor would be elected for the village. VIP’s candidate for mayor was Hugh Hermanek. TAP’s candidate for mayor was Rocco DeSantis, a former police officer for the village.
Schmalz was the head of the police union and a veteran police officer for the village. Schmalz and the union supported DeSantis and the TAP party. Schmalz claims that, before the election, he was threatened and defamed by village officials for supporting TAP.
In April 2013, VIP and Hermanek won the election. Hermanek passed over Schmalz and appointed Niemann to be the chief of police.
Schmalz claims that, after the election, he was denied promotions, removed from a prestigious gang task force and refused work, which effectively ended his career.
Schmalz sued for political retaliation in violation of his First Amendment rights. The lawsuit uncovered shocking misconduct by village officials. The Court sanctioned Hermanek and Niemann for destroying over 50 important text messages.
The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and captioned as Frank Schmalz v. Village of North Riverside, et al., No 21 C 1684.
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Read more background about the case here: