HAMMOND | City safety officials violated state law when they fired a firefighter late last year, a Lake Superior Court judge ruled, ordering that the man be returned to his job.
Thomas A. Markovich, 36, was terminated by the Fire Department for "conduct unbecoming" on Dec. 1, a decision upheld by the Board of Public Works and Safety after a public hearing in March.
But state statutes hold that a firefighter has a right to a hearing before being dismissed, a procedural requirement not followed by the safety board, Judge John Sedia wrote in his order that Markovich be reinstated to his position, rank, salary, benefits and seniority retroactive to Dec. 1, 2011.
Markovich, a six-year department veteran, was accused of phoning in a prank false alarm on his cellphone while drinking with other firefighters in a Highland tavern on Aug. 17, 2011.
"The law is very clear: our client was entitled to a hearing he didn't get," said Joseph Curosh Jr., Markovich's attorney.
Not following legal procedure made the December termination by Fire Chief Jeffrey Smith void, Sedia ruled, and also the safety board's subsequent decision to uphold the termination.
Hammond is appealing Sedia's ruling.
A letter was sent to fire officials informing them that Markovich was ready to go back to work, Curosh said Friday, but so far there had been no response from the department.
Markovich, a nephew of City Councilman Robert Markovich, D-at large, also faces a criminal misdemeanor charge of harassment over the August 2011 incident.
That case was continued to April in a Thursday hearing before Judge Nicholas Schiralli.
No date has yet been set regarding a civil action Markovich filed against Hammond, the Board of Public Works and Safety and five Fire Department officials in January.