Worker sues Illinois township over firing

Wednesday, February 18, 1998

A former maintenance worker for the Illinois township of Bloomingdale sued the town and its two top employees in federal court this week claiming he lost his job because he campaigned for his former boss.

Nicholas Bianco, 52, contends that current township Supervisor Floyd Sanford fired him because he campaigned for the re-election of the previous supervisor, William Kassal. Sanford defeated Kassal in an April 1, 1997, election.

Sanford fired Bianco on June 20. Township trustees, who approved the termination, said Bianco’s job was one of eight positions eliminated to save the township, located about 25 miles west of Chicago, about $250,000 annually.

Bianco’s attorney, Andrew Acker, said the firing was politically motivated, not merely a part of a staff reduction measure.

“It impacts upon First Amendment issues: Free speech, free association and the right of political patronage,” Acker told the First Amendment Center. “In the case of his termination, we strongly believe it was out of his political patronage for one of these candidates.”

In his lawsuit filed in U.S. district court in Chicago, Bianco seeks an unspecified amount in damages from the township. He also seeks damages from Sanford and township Assessor Henry Gianvecchio. The lawsuit contends that the two men “conspired to deprive Bianco of his right to freedom of speech and political association.”

Gianvecchio didn’t return a phone call to his office this morning. Sanford, who had just undergone knee surgery, was unavailable for comment.

Bianco remains unemployed. He earned $27,000 annually and had been hired by Kassal in 1995.