MUNSTER — Lake County officials are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them earlier this year by former police lieutenant Guy Mikulich.
Mikulich, 39, is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from Buncich, county government and other unidentified defendants to compensate him for the loss of his law enforcement career and years of job stress.
Mikulich filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court May 15. The day prior, he pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, in Lake Criminal Court to two felonies for hitting a pedestrian with his squad car while intoxicated at the 2016 Gary Air Show.
He told Judge Clarence Murray at his sentencing hearing his struggle with mental illness was well known at the Lake County Sheriff's Department, and he blamed his former employer for not adequately addressing mental health problems among its staff.
He said in his complaint he began counseling in 2010 for depression and anger management, but when he brought his concerns to Buncich, he was told to “suck it up and act like a man.”
Mikulich alleges he told his superiors he could not work security at the 2016 Gary Air Show because he was intoxicated and depressed, but he was ordered to report for duty.
Mikulich is suing county officials for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), wrongful termination, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, defamation of character, hostile work environment and violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
The defendants filed their motions to dismiss last week.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners maintains it has no control over the acts of the sheriff or the sheriff's officers, except through limited emergency powers, and therefore it cannot be held liable for their actions.
The board also states Mikulich failed to file a tort claim with the Lake County commissioners within 180 days of his alleged loss. Therefore, he is now barred from making several of the claims.
Buncich alleged in his motion the ADA claims made against him should also be dismissed for paperwork problems.
Specifically, Buncich claims Mikulich failed to file his lawsuit less than 90 days after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission completed its investigation of his claims.
Buncich also maintains he acted within the scope of his employment when he fired Mikulich from the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Attorneys held an in-chambers conference Friday with Judge Andrew P. Rodovich, court records state. Parties agreed a trial on Mikulich's claims is not expected to happen until March 2020, court records state.
In the meantime, parties have selected a mediator to attempt to resolve the claims through a non-trial disposition. Mikulich is required to respond to the defendant's motions to dismiss by Sept. 28.