BRADLEY — A couple months ago, Bradley Village Administrator Catherine Wojnarowski alleged she was a potential victim of retaliation for her recommendation on a village issue.
She has been down this road before — in another place.
In April 2017, Wojnarowski was fired from her job as assistant to the mayor in suburban Alsip, south of Chicago. She sued Alsip a month earlier, claiming village officials had violated her rights under the state’s whistleblower law and the First Amendment.
Last September, Alsip settled with Wojnarowski, giving her $97,500. In doing so, the village admitted no wrongdoing, according to the agreement.
Wojnarowski, who was appointed Bradley administrator in December 2017, did not return a message for comment.
Under the terms of the settlement, the litigants can only say the matter has been resolved. That is how defendant and Alsip’s new mayor, John Ryan, responded to a Daily Journal request for comment.
The newspaper obtained the agreement through the state’s open records law.
Wojnarowski worked in Alsip for about three years. While she had the former mayor’s support to the end, she claimed in her lawsuit that several village board members and the finance and human resources director repeatedly harassed her.
In 2015, at the direction of then-Mayor Patrick Kitching, Wojnarowski expressed concern to the finance director about his poor communication. She also told the director that she and the mayor had been receiving complaints from the director’s staff and vendors about the lack of accountability, the lawsuit said.
In November 2015, Kitching and a village trustee met with the finance director to discuss their concerns with his performance. At a meeting afterward, the director accused Wojnarowski of “masterminding” the complaints.
Wojnarowski also alleged in her lawsuit that the defendants worked to take away her floating holidays — four per quarter — which the village offered when it hired her, as evidenced by a letter.
The defendants, meanwhile, hired a firm to conduct a “confidential” investigation of Wojnarowski, the lawsuit said.
The mayor opposed the inquiry, saying it was “unwarranted and unauthorized by me. This is just another form of harassment perpetrated by some members of our board and staff,” according to the lawsuit.
In June 2016, Wojnarowski read a statement at a village board meeting that the trustees were violating the law and engaging in retaliatory behavior by trying to breach her employment agreement, specifically with floating holidays, the lawsuit said. That was hurting her financially because of her child care obligations, it said.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants took part in unplanned closed sessions to discuss their problems with Wojnarowski. She said the defendants never gave her details about why they fired her after a closed session.
In April, Wojnarowski alleged potential retaliation in Bradley. That month, she sent emails to then-Mayor Bruce Adams and village trustees saying that the mayor informed her that he was being pressured by his allies to fire her. That pressure, she was informed, was a result of her recommendation to withdraw from the village’s agreement with the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau, she said.
Adams, a supporter of the visitors bureau, denied her allegation.
“No one is putting pressure on me. If I wanted to have Catherine gone, she would have been gone,” Adams said in a recent interview. “To me, this looks like a set-up for another possible lawsuit. That’s just my opinion.”
Adams, who abruptly resigned April 26, said he knew about the Alsip lawsuit when he interviewed Wojnarowski and asked her about it. He said he was satisfied with her explanation.
The new board majority, elected April 2, has kept Wojnarowski as administrator. She made $99,000 from Bradley in 2018, according to OpenTheBooks.com.