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Lemont firefighter disputes village of Willow Springs over termination

Published: Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT

LEMONT – A local firefighter claims he was fired from his part-time job with the village of Willow Springs because he angered a friend of Mayor Alan Nowaczyk.

John Truffa, who works full time as a lieutenant for the Lemont Fire Protection District, was dismissed from his Willow Springs position Aug. 7 after 10 years with the department.

Truffa said Willow Springs Fire Chief John DeHaan told him he was fired because Nowaczyk was upset that Truffa had used a Willow Springs Police Department boat during a safety drill in Lemont.

According to Truffa, DeHaan also said the mayor was upset that Truffa had been insubordinate to Kevin Murray, who is not an employee of the village but is a co-director for the Justice-Willow Springs Water Commission, the brother of Village Administrator William Murray and a friend of the mayor.

Nowaczyk said Truffa’s firing had nothing to do with the boat drill and was surprised when the accusations were brought to his attention.

“There were a number of factors that figure into his termination,” Nowaczyk said. “That’s a personnel matter. That’s about as far as I can go with it.”

DeHaan said his attorney had advised him not to comment on the issue.

Lemont Fire Chief George Rimbo said that Truffa is an “exemplary employee,” who “does a lot of extra things for us.”

One of those things is serving as team coordinator for the MABAS Division 10 Water Rescue and Recovery Team.

Truffa organized a drill Aug. 2 to simulate the process for rescuing a person from the I&M Canal before they would reach an electronic fish barrier and be electrocuted.

Rimbo said the Willow Springs Police Department would be called in for support in the event of such an emergency.

Truffa said when he was having a meeting with DeHaan about using the village’s boat for the drill, Kevin Murray also will in the room.

He described Murray’s interaction with him as argumentative.

“[DeHaan] told me later, ‘You just made an enemy,’” Truffa said.

Truffa said the next time he went to work in Willow Springs, he was pulled aside by DeHaan and told the mayor had ordered him to be fired.

Truffa said the mayor told DeHaan the boat should not have been used without Kevin Murray on board.

Nowaczyk said the decision to fire Truffa was made during a meeting Aug. 5 and he was not aware of the details of the boat drill until after that meeting.

Neither Nowaczyk nor William Murray could say why Kevin Murray was brought up in the accusations.

Nowaczyk said Truffa’s response is an emotional reaction by somebody who has been fired and that he heard a similar outcry three years ago when he privatized the public works department.

“A lot of people don’t like somebody who comes in and shakes things up a bit,” he said.

Nowaczyk said Truffa’s firing was part of the village’s policy of evaluating employees and holding them to a high standard of performance.

“There’s no secret that we’re looking at doing some department consolidating,” he said.

On Sept. 18, the village announced it had reached an agreement with the Tri-State Fire District to provide fire protection services.

The department is staffed by part-time workers who will not be retained, William Murray said.

According to a village news release, the agreement will give the village a full-time firefighter staff and also will save money by sharing the cost with the Tri-State Fire District.

Truffa, who has received a cease and desist order on speaking about the firingfrom attorneys from the village and representing Kevin Murray, said his reason for speaking out is to bring to light what he says are inappropriate practices in the village.

“I’m not looking for any legal action. I’m not looking to get my job back,” he said.

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