A former Proviso Township employee who was fired after the April 2009 election is suing the board of trustees for allegedly carrying out a political hit. Among the defendants named in the case is Tim Gillian, village administrator in Forest Park and a Proviso Township trustee.
According to the suit, Gillian and his colleagues at the township terminated the plaintiff, Charles Fredrickson, after Fredrickson supported a slate of candidates opposing Gillian and his running mates.
Fredrickson was fired from his job as director of the Proviso Township transportation office in June 2009. He was replaced by a political ally of the township trustees.
Political support for Gillian’s candidacy, and that of his running mates – Michael Corrigan, Don Sloan, Anthony Williams and Mari Herrell – came from Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico. Each of those individuals are also named as defendants in the case, but it was Serpico who allegedly pushed for Fredrickson to lose his job.
According to Fredrickson, the township candidates were “controlled by and politically aligned with” the Melrose Park mayor.
Gillian said the allegation that Serpico is the township’s puppet master is “just frivolous.” He acknowledged having Serpico’s backing during the campaign, but said that mayors from across Proviso Township supported his slate.
“Mayor Serpico, along with other mayors, supported us,” Gillian said. “I have never once been called by, nor have I ever called Ron Serpico, and ever been asked, nor have I ever asked, for anything.”
Fredrickson worked for the township’s transportation office beginning in 2001 and became director in 2005. During that span, he said in his federal complaint, he repeatedly backed candidates who ran against those supported by Serpico. In November 2002, he alleges, Serpico “threatened” him. Details of that alleged threat are not made clear in the suit.
Fredrickson is alleging that his civil rights were violated by the defendants when they fired him in June. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on Jan. 21.
Not mentioned in the complaint is Readith Esther, the township’s new director of transportation. Esther also campaigned alongside Gillian, but for the position of township clerk. She lost that election by 300 votes and was the only candidate on the Serpico slate not to win office. After Fredrickson was dismissed, Esther was hired.
“Ms. Esther was previously the village clerk in Maywood and had extremely good recommendations for her supervisory skills and management skills,” Gillian said of hiring his running mate. “So far, in my opinion, she’s done an excellent job.”
Esther, too, denied that she was given special consideration in landing the job and said it is offensive that anyone would suggest otherwise. Esther said she has brought greater efficiency and professionalism to the department.
“My take on it is that my efforts as a campaigning candidate – my efforts were admired,” Esther said of why she was hired.
The township’s transportation office provides free rides to seniors and the developmentally disabled to help them keep appointments and purchase groceries.
As for his political connections to Melrose Park, Gillian acknowledged there is an unsavory perception of Serpico as a township powerbroker whose interests in public office are self serving. Those opinions are unfounded, he said, and his relationship with Serpico should not sully Forest Park’s reputation.
“I agree that there is a perception, but I disagree that there is a real problem,” Gillian said.
Gillian then turned those criticisms onto Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica, a Riverside Republican who often supports candidates running against those supported by Serpico. Peraica, said Gillian, would like to have the political muscle that Serpico is accused of wielding.
“I don’t know the gentleman, but clearly he doesn’t know anything about me,” Peraica said of Gillian’s comments. He then rattled off a list of federal convictions handed to Melrose Park employees and consultants whose crimes were committed during Serpico’s watch.