The Thursday hearing to consider the termination of Sgt. Dan Harder had to be one of the all-time silliest episodes of courtroom drama that was not presided over by Judge Judy.
Two highly qualified attorneys, one of whom is being paid by Forest Park’s taxpayers, spent five hours plus arguing about whether cops swear. The answer, of course, is yes.
And though anyone who has ever eavesdropped on a conversation at a local donut shop knows that to be the case, the creative uses of vulgarity that Forest Park cops come up with are apparently rather extreme, far too much so to be printed in the Review.
The question, then, is why a police chief who is certainly aware of the culture of his department would want to have every embarrassing incident that has ever occurred at the station exposed to the public.
Is Harder really more of a drag on the department’s morale than the embarrassment that is sure to result from the hearings?
Harder’s attorneys, of course, still allege that the hearings were rigged from the start. We will wait for the verdict to make that determination, but Police Chief Jim Ryan’s attorney, Patrick Lucansky, certainly seems a bit overconfident considering the seeming weaknesses in the case.
The swearing charge is a joke when compared to everyday behavior at the station, the charge of excessive sick days has lead Harder to file a federal lawsuit upon the village for forgetting to mention his Family Medical Leave. The other two charges are simply he said, she said issues that cannot be proven either way.
Yet while Harder’s attorneys aggressively attack the credibility of the charges and witnesses, Lucansky so far seems comfortable merely allowing the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners to hear the testimony and determine who they think is telling the truth.
Considering the lack of a persuasive argument from Lucansky, we wonder what they could possibly base such a decision on other than previously existing biases.
Unless Lucansky picks up the pace at the next hearing, we would be forced to conclude that the charges of a rig are accurate if Harder is indeed fired.
Though we are not making our final judgments quite yet, it is difficult not to hope that the board rules in favor of Harder, not so much for his own sake but because of the years of further embarrassment in civil court it would save the village.
This has been embarrassing for years
Regardless of the justifications supplied by Chris Welch, any small school district paying $180,000 in legal fees over a six-month period is unquestionably outrageous.
The absurdity of the Bellwood charges is only magnified by the similar legal spending habits of Welch’s board majority at District 209.
We have no way of knowing whether the detailed record of billing provided by Welch is accurate or if the hours were inflated.
Here’s what we do know: At worst, Welch is intentionally using his position as board attorney to divert money away from students and into his own hands or those of his political associates.
At best, lawsuits upon lawsuits seem to follow the guy wherever he goes, especially when the taxpayers are picking up the tab.