Two female Forest Park police officers who brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against the village two years ago are alleging renewed mistreatment. But Village Administrator Michael Sturino says any allegations are false.
Attorney Jeanine L. Stevens, who represented Andrea Caines, Maureen Frawley and Daniel Harder in the previous lawsuit against the Forest Park police department, is alleging that Caines and Frawley are being subjected to a hostile work environment and she is threatening to file a new lawsuit.
Specifically, Stevens said Lieutenant Michael Cody, who was convicted of a battery against Caines in July 2003, has been reassigned as Caines’ supervisor and that her client has not been given recourse in the matter, creating a hostile working environment for her client.
Frawley, says Stevens, has medical issues requiring temporary “light duty” assignments which, she says, the department is unwilling to provide.
Caines reportedly complained about the reassignment to Police Chief James Ryan, but he allegedly replied, “he (Cody) has been in the penalty box long enough, get over it,” Stevens said.
For his part, Sturino said it is untrue Caines has been subject to a hostile work environment, adding that Caines is not working on the same shift as Cody. But he would not comment further on the reassignment.
“There are several remedies available to her and I am not aware she has availed herself of any of these remedies,” Sturino said.
“Caines was not expecting Cody to be her supervisor again or to be taking orders from him again,” Stevens said.
Mayor Anthony Calderone also took issue with the allegations.
“We would never create a hostile work environment,” Calderone said. “I don’t believe Lt. Cody has been assigned as her permanent supervisor. I think it is some poor information. We have no interest in turning the clock back and reliving our experience with sexual harassment and hostile working environment. The sexual harassment never received adjudication and it has been fully reported in the newspaper. It was an unfortunate event, we have no interest in reliving that and we would never create an environment that creates the opportunity for that to present itself. “
Cody was found guilty of battery by Maybrook Circuit Court Judge Gilbert J. Grossi on March 12, 2003 in connection with an August 2002 incident during which he forced Caines to expose herself at a Fraternal Order of Police picnic.
According to Stevens, Cody was given a suspended sentence and remained under court supervision for one year. But the most serious allegation levied by Caines against Cody was that he “coerced” her to have sexual intercourse with him in February 2001 by “threatening her with unfavorable work assignments.”
“We knew going into it that [Cody] wasn’t going to be convicted by the Police and Fire Commission. They had a pretend trial and the three people on the Police and Fire Commission came back and said he was not guilty. At the same time she brought a charge in criminal court in Maywood and he was convicted,” Stevens said. “After that they had another pretend hearing based on the conviction and the Police and Fire Commission decided it wasn’t a real conviction.”
Stevens maintains her client is being forced out and that a hostile work environment is being created, not only for Caines, but for Frawley as well.
“The only [other] remedy she has is to file another lawsuit, which will take several years and cost the village a lot of money, cost her a lot of money and what is the point?” Stevens asked. “Nobody is trying to milk the village. What we are trying to do it prevent the village from having to pay more money in attorneys fees, in an out-of-court settlement, in court costs. I do not want to have to file another lawsuit but I will if they force me to.”
Caines alleges she is uncomfortable working under Cody’s supervision, Stevens said.
Stevens not only complained about Cody supervising Caines, but also questioned his appointment to head the department’s internal affairs division, in light of his criminal conviction.
“Cody is very cocky and acts like he got away with something,” Stevens said.
Calderone, however, said it would be impossible for Cody and Caines to never work with each other in Forest Park.
“We have a police department to operate and it is going to be impossible”we don’t have the pleasure like the City of Chicago and take our cops and move them to districts that are miles apart from each other”being in a small community we have challenges that need to be recognized by management and employees alike. It is a new day and people have to learn to work with one another,” he said.
Caines has also complained to her attorney that Forest Park police officers are allegedly wearing expired bulletproof vests because the department doesn’t have the money to replace them.
Sturino questioned Steven’s claims, adding he would not comment on the department’s allocation of funds.
Stevens said that having Cody as her supervisor has affected Caines’ appetite and sleeping patterns. Caines was not allowed to speak with the REVIEW directly about her complaints without permission from her superiors. Late Monday the village did authorize
Caines to speak with the REVIEW, after the paper made inquiries about the allegations.
Stevens also complained about the treatment Frawley has received.
Frawley has been on medical leave due to kidney stones and requested a return to light duty. She was allegedly told the department does not have light duty positions.
“I think it is inappropriate to discuss someone’s health in the media,” Sturino replied, when questioned about Steven’s claims regarding Frawley’s disability. “I am surprised Sgt. Frawley’s attorney would do so.”
Stevens said she has every right to speak out because she is concerned about her client’s health.
“They have never, ever not had light duty and they are refusing to pay,” she said. “Frawley has been told she can go back to work. [The police department] received a note from her doctor saying she is excused from work until May 25. [They are] telling her the police department does not have any light duty available; therefore she has to return to work, full duty on May 26. She has had three surgeries over a four week period. She still has stitches in. I am very concerned about this woman’s health, both her physical health and her mental health. She recognizes that what the village is trying to do is to create such a hostile work environment and to make it so impossible for her to work that she can’t take it anymore.”
If this continues, Stevens concluded, she may have to take further legal action against the Forest Park police.
Sturino also declined to comment on the possibility of opening an investigation into these claims, stating simply that he does not conduct investigations through the media.