CHICAGO - A fired Cook County sheriff's deputy has been reinstated after a judge ruled she was illegally fired by Sheriff Tom Dart's merit board.
Dixie Rios said she was on her way to accomplishing her dream to be a Cook County Sheriff's Police officer. She said she was in training for that job after being promoted three other times when her career was derailed and she was fired.
Monday, she returned to work after being fired in 2013 and is waiting to get $300,000 in back pay.
"A little nervous, but it will be okay," Rios said.
Rios said she had been with the department seven years and promoted four times. When she complained about policy requiring employees to disclose relatives connected to gangs, she said a false charge was made against her that resulted in her being fired.
"The investigation was botched from the beginning," Rios said.
As a result of litigation, a court has reversed that firing and ordered Rios back to work.
"I didn't do anything wrong, so you're not going to make me resign. You're not going to make me sit here and take a seat because I am going to fight for what is right on my behalf," Rios said.
The chief policy officer for the Cook County Sheriff's Department, Cara Smith said Rios did engage in misconduct by passing a message from her jailed brother to someone outside the jail, and while the department is challenging this judge's ruling, they will comply. But the judge's order could open the door to other fired employees coming back to work.
"There are other employees who were terminated who will likely challenge their terminations under the same theory as Ms. Rios who were criminally charged," Smith said. "It has serious implications again for taxpayers and public safety."
Rios' attorney has also filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of employees disciplined through the merit board.
"Thank goodness the courts have found and are holding Dart accountable for violating the law. He is the highest ranking law enforcement officer Cook County and he needs to be held accountable and follow the law," said Dana Kurtz, Rios' attorney.
Rios filled out paperwork to officially be reinstated Monday and is awaiting assignment.
"They might have won the battle, but I won the war. And this is not just for me, this is for other officers," Rios said.