Village Off the Hook for Fire Chief’s Cadet Abuse

     (CN) – A small town in Illinois is not liable for ignoring sexual complaints about a fire chief who molested a 16-year-old cadet in 2001, the 7th Circuit ruled.

     The alleged victim said John Klaczak, then 41, performed oral sex on him in December 2001 while acting as the Village of Thornton’s fire chief.
     In his lawsuit, the boy claimed that in 1997, Thornton police received a call from a couple accusing Klaczak of molesting their son.
     Klaczak resigned as a police officer to get help for a cocaine addiction, but was named fire chief in 1999.
     Later that year, witnesses saw Klaczak giving oral sex to a different minor fire cadet in a bar bathroom, according to the complaint.
     Stories of Klaczak’s “propensity and his like for boys and oral sex and anal sex [and] booze parties” circulated the department, the ruling states, and Klaczak was known for giving alcohol and drugs to minors.
     The boy said the village should have fired Klaczak, given its knowledge that he “was dangerous to minor cadets.”
     But because Klaczak stayed, the village failed to protect the plaintiff from “foreseeable sexual assaults and attacks,” the lawsuit states.
     Klaczak was arrested for molesting the 16-year-old boy in 2002. He pleaded guilty in 2005 to sexually assaulting two boys and spent three years in jail.
     The district court dismissed the claims against the village, saying the decision-making power ultimately fell to the board of trustees, most of whom were unaware of Klaczak’s sexual proclivities.
     The Chicago-based appeals court agreed that the claims failed, but said it didn’t matter who acted as the final decision-maker — the board or village President Jack Swan.
     The plaintiff “presents no evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that either the board of trustees or Swan knew that maintaining Klaczak in employment would pose a ‘substantial risk’ of a constitutional problem,” Judge William Bauer wrote (original emphasis).

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