Griffith's former top cop sues town officials

2013-07-18T20:00:00Z 2013-07-18T20:16:16Z Griffith's former top cop sues town officialsJim Masters Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 18, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

GRIFFITH | Several town officials were named in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday by former Police Chief Ronald Kottka over his ouster as Griffith’s top cop.

Kottka filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Hammond alleging two counts of violation of due process under the 14th Amendment, one count of defamation and one count for declaratory relief. He is represented by Chicago civil rights and employment law attorney Christopher Cooper.

Kottka is seeking compensatory damages of $100,000 from the town and the same in punitive damages from each defendant. He is also seeking attorney fees and a hearing on why he was demoted and essentially “forced into retirement,” according to the lawsuit.

Named in the suit are Griffith Town Council Vice President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, Griffith Public Safety Board President Jim Marker and board members Roann Purgert, John Volkmann, Gary Sutton and Liz Goral.

Ryfa told The Times on Thursday he had not had an opportunity to review the lawsuit to make a comment. Ryfa referred questions to Town Attorney Robert Schwerd, who was unable to be reached for comment.

Kottka's lawsuit says Safety Board members made oral and written comments in 2012 and 2013 that he was being demoted for engaging in police misconduct, calling his character into issue. He says board members refused to answer his inquires about the nature of the alleged misconduct, and he was repeatedly denied a hearing over why he was demoted.

Ryfa previously said Kottka was not legally entitled to a hearing on his demotion.

Kottka, who retired effective July 13 after 38 years on the Griffith police force, was demoted along with former Lt. Michael Gulley by a 4-1 vote of the Griffith Town Council, per the recommendation of the Safety Board.

After the demotion, Kottka experienced a hostile work environment, leading to his retirement, according to the lawsuit. He says the defendants caused him financial losses, mental anguish and embarrassment.

Gulley was suspended for 30 days without pay in February after the Safety Board determined through an internal investigation that he took about $1,600 by falsifying work hour records associated with Operation Pull Over. He formally retired from the police force in April.

More than 100 residents protested the ouster of Kottka and Gulley at a Safety Board meeting in November, and a subsequent a Town Council meeting also drew a standing-room only crowd.

Griffith named Greg Mance its police chief in February.

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