Former Orland official lodges new complaint against fire district
By Mike Nolan email@example.com May 24, 2012 8:06PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:41AM
The Orland Fire Protection District’s former human resources director this week filed a new lawsuit alleging she was fired for objecting to what she viewed as politically motivated hiring of part-time summer workers.
A federal judge earlier this month dismissed a complaint Joanne Chavez Buchanan filed last December accusing the district of violating her First Amendment rights when she was let go nearly a year ago. She said she was fired for questioning the hiring last year of two teenage sons of Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park) for the fire district’s summer jobs program.
Her complaint, filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, asserts Buchanan’s firing was politically motivated and violated the state’s whistleblower act.
Buchanan claims she was pressured into sidestepping the district’s hiring protocol in filling seasonal jobs for the summer internship program and in replacing a receptionist for the district.
The summer jobs program is intended for students in the district who are 18 or older, and Buchanan said she pointed out to her superiors that neither of Gorman’s sons had yet turned 18. She claims Jim Hickey, president of the fire district’s board of trustees, told her to hire them anyway.
According to a report by the Better Government Association and Fox Chicago News, Hickey said that Buchanan’s firing wasn’t retaliatory and that the requirement for summer hires is that they be at least 16, not 18.
Gorman, in an email, claimed Buchanan “has used my children as pawns to politicize her own frivolous lawsuits, which is despicable!”
This year there were so many applicants at the fire protection district that a lottery was held to fill the seasonal job openings. Gorman’s sons both made the cut, according to the BGA/Fox report.