Defense rests in Harder hearing

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By BOB SKOLNIK

The end is coming into sight for the long running Sgt. Dan Harder termination hearing. Last week the defense rested its case following the aggressive cross examination of Harder by Patrick Lucansky, the attorney for Forest Park Police Chief James Ryan. Ryan is seeking to fire Harder.

For those expecting fireworks, or even much drama, the cross examination of Harder was a disappointment. Lucansky began his nearly three hour cross examination with a frontal assault on Harder's testimony when he was questioned by his own attorney, Jeanine Stevens, three weeks ago.

"You would agree that your testimony, would you not, is a collection of lies?" asked Lucansky.

Not surprisingly Harder did not agree.

And so it went.

Lucansky portrayed Harder as a lying, lazy police officer on a mission to destroy his own department. Harder disagreed.

Harder, who wore light gray slacks, a gray print sports shirt, and black tasseled loafers, stood throughout his cross examination.

Harder stood facing Lucansky. When he was ready to answer a question he would turn toward the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners sitting behind him and look at them while he denied whatever misdeed Lucansky was accusing him of.

The pace of the cross examination often slowed as Harder frequently asked to be able to read the transcript of his prior testimony.

Perhaps the most interesting detail that emerged from the testimony was that Harder was the highest paid employee of the village for three years during which he earned between $95,000 and $105,000 a year when he worked a lot of overtime.

Harder had also amassed a massive amount of comp time that Ryan insisted he use up by taking time off.

Lucansky implied that Harder did not really earn comp time, and that while a detective sergeant, Harder was not closely supervised, not seen much around the department, often difficult to locate, and did not have to account for his time. Lucansky suggested that Harder basically set his own hours, often playing golf on Wednesday afternoons.

Harder replied that he worked all hours of the day and night and on weekends as detective sergeant and that when he did play golf he would make up the hours by working into the night.

"I was on call 24 hours a day," said Harder, who said he basically worked or was on call 24/7.

When Ryan was hired, Lucansky claimed that Harder told Ryan in a meeting that he had been a "slug" during much of his career and didn't work very hard.

Harder denied ever saying that.

Ryan eventually demoted Harder from detective sergeant to patrol sergeant.

Harder testified that he accumulated so much comp time because he had an agreement with former police chief Ed Pope to grant him comp time in excess of the amount permitted by the union contract to be carried over in lieu of being paid overtime.

"I was told by Chief Pope that because of budget constraints this was the arrangement we were going to have," said Harder.

Lucansky charged that Harder was trying to destroy the reputation of Mayor Anthony Calderone and Ryan.

Harder testified that Calderone had once told Harder that the mayor was the chief law enforcement official in Forest Park.

Stevens won a rare procedural victory when hearing officer Charles Hervas ruled that an affidavit that Lucansky tried to introduce from former Cook County State's Attorney Frank Serio was inadmissible hearsay. Lucansky had tried to introduce the affidavit to contradict testimony from Forest Park Police Officer Tom Hall. Hall had testified that Serio told him of a conversation between Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine and Ryan in which Devine had allegedly told the police chief that Sgt. Mike Murphy should either be fired or buried in the evidence room.

Affidavits are usually inadmissible hearsay because the introduction of an affidavit as evidence does not give the other side an opportunity to cross examine the author of the affidavit.

When Stevens announced that she was resting her case, Lucansky was surprised. Many had expected that Stevens would call Murphy to testify, but she chose not to.

Lucansky said he did not know Stevens was not going to call any other witnesses and the hearing was adjourned until 4 p.m. Aug. 24 when Lucansky can present rebuttal witnesses.

But everyone seemed glad that an end was in sight.

When Stevens said she had no more witnesses to present, Hervas was happy.

"That's kind of a milestone in this case," Hervas said.

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