Calmut City, Indiana, Firefighters Settle Lawsuit

CALUMET CITY, IN -- Two Calumet City firefighters settled a federal lawsuit against the city this week that alleged First Amendment violations, defamation and conspiracy against three aldermen and a former police chief.

The City Council agreed to the settlement Thursday, admitting no wrongdoing.

The terms of the four-count federal lawsuit filed by firefighters Rich Banske - president of the local firefighters union - and Mike Flanagan, secretary/treasurer of the union, were not disclosed.

"I'm happy to have it behind me," Banske said Friday.

The union has been working well with the current administration, Banske said, adding he would prefer not to open old wounds.

"I'm glad the issue is over, but it's best to put it behind me," he said.

Banske and Flanagan filed the suit in 2002 against 5th Ward Alderman Gerry Tarka, 3rd Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones, former Police Chief George Vallis and then-4th Ward Alderman Romayne Bublich. Bublich died in 2003.

The suit alleged First Amendment violations and defamation by the aldermen against Banske and Flanagan, a conspiracy by Vallis (who currently serves as the city's personnel director) and Jones to deny Banske equal protection under the law and assault and battery by Jones against Banske.

Jones and Banske were involved in a verbal argument in May 2002. Banske alleged Jones shoved him into the council chambers after a City Council meeting.

The suit alleged Banske needed medical treatment and missed work as a result of the incident. The suit further alleged that when Banske filed battery charges against Jones at the Police Department, Jones was already meeting with Vallis.

The suit also mentioned comments made during an August 2002 news conference conducted by Bublich, Jones and Tarka. During the news conference, the three aldermen alleged criminal activity by "union members" or "union leaders" and called on local and county authorities to launch a criminal investigation into the matter.