The termination hearing for Sgt. Dan Harder resumed Thursday at village hall after a hiatus of over a month. Police Chief James Ryan resumed the testimony that began on Dec. 29, as Harder’s attorney Jeanine Stevens continued her effort to show that Harder is being retaliated against by the village.
Before she began, Patrick Lucansky, the attorney representing Ryan, noted that State’s Attorney Dick Devine’s name was not on Stevens’ list of witnesses. At the last hearing, Stevens said that she would subpoena Devine to testify after Ryan denied that Devine had told him to “either fire (Sgt. Mike Murphy) or bury him in the evidence room.”
Throughout the hearing, Stevens has attempted to show that offenses allegedly committed by Murphy and others were more serious than those Harder is accused of but they have been routinely overlooked.
Lucansky said that Assistant State’s Attorney Colin Simpson had informed him that the conversation never occurred. “I think this conversation never took place, and I think she knows that,” he said.
Stevens said that a subpoena had been served to Devine but she had not yet decided whether to call him to testify.
Ryan then took the stand, and Stevens questioned him regarding why Harder had never been given a chance to respond to the evidence against him before or during the police department’s investigation of his conduct, noting that such an opportunity is required by the police department’s personnel handbook.
“He had an opportunity (to respond) at his interrogation and he has an opportunity at this hearing,” said Ryan.
Stevens also asked Ryan about an incident during which Murphy allegedly swore at a subordinate officer, questioning why he had not been disciplined as harshly as Harder for his actions. Several of the charges Harder faces are related to an incident on June 4, 2005 when he admittedly called Off. Young Lee a “****ing idiot” during roll call.
Ryan said that the Murphy incident had been investigated and that his conduct was found to be improper, but commented that Murphy had only referred to the officer using a swear word and had not sworn directly at him.
“It came very close to costing him his job,” Ryan said, acknowledging that Murphy was given three months off with pay as a result of the incident.
“Murphy was given three months vacation with the chief’s blessing, as well as the mayor’s,” retorted Stevens.
Stevens then questioned Ryan about why he chose to allow Lt. Michael Cody to handle the internal investigation of Harder. “Couldn’t you have looked and said ‘maybe this isn’t the best guy?'” asked Stevens.
Cody was one of the defendants in the sexual harassment suit filed by Harder and two other officers in 2002, though Ryan pointed out that Harder’s specific complaint did not deal with Cody.
Ryan said that he could judge Cody only on his performance since he became chief, and did not feel that Cody had a grudge against Harder or that his appointment to the investigation was inappropriate.
Over strong objections from Lucansky, Stevens then again shifted the focus of the hearing back to Murphy. Among the charges against Harder is that he fabricated an account of an altercation during which he was threatened by Murphy.
Throughout the hearing, Stevens has attempted to show Murphy’s lack of credibility, and numerous officers have testified that they’ve had concerns regarding Murphy’s truthfulness. She has repeatedly questioned Ryan about why he believed Murphy over Harder in regards to the alleged altercation.
Ryan denied having heard Sgt. Michael Keating call Murphy “out of control” and a pathological liar. Ryan acknowledged speaking to Off. Michael Harrison about Murphy, but said that truthfulness was not among the issues discussed.
Lucansky became particularly agitated when Stevens suggested that Off. Harold Grimes felt Murphy had been dishonest in a report alleging that he was assaulted by Sidney Hooks, a homeless man who later claimed he was beaten by Murphy during an arrest.
Lucansky insisted that Stevens read back his cross examination, during which Grimes was specifically asked if he felt Murphy had been dishonest and said no.
During Stevens’ questioning, he acknowledged that he felt Murphy had been “dishonest in a way.”
Ryan said he saw Murphy and Grimes’ varying accounts of the incident as a “difference of opinion.”
Ryan also addressed two incidents of alleged police brutality by Off. Jason Keeling which have arisen during the hearing. Harder filed a complaint in 2004 alleging that a prisoner, Stephen Hetman, who had been banging loudly on his cell door was beaten by Keeling.
Ryan said that an investigation of the incident by Sgt. Maureen Frawley had shown that Keeling had entered the unruly prisoner’s cell in an effort to remove him after he had been injured, and then struggled with the prisoner in an effort to gain control.
He said that there was no evidence that Keeling did anything wrong aside from entering the cell by himself, and that additional training was recommended.
Ryan was then asked about an allegation that Keeling had slammed a handcuffed juvenile’s head into a gate at the police station. Harder wrote a memo to Lt. Steve Knack informing him of the alleged incident in 2004.
Ryan said that the incident was not thoroughly investigated because the only complaint came from the juvenile’s mother, who never showed up for an interview she had scheduled with police to discuss her claims.
Stevens also accused Ryan of withholding reimbursement for money spent by Harder on the department’s summer grant program. Ryan asked that Harder submit a list of these expenses to his assistant.
She then questioned Ryan regarding why Harder had been passed over in favor of less experienced officers for several classroom training opportunities. Ryan replied that considering Harder’s attendance record with the department, he did not feel that Harder could be trusted to attend the classes.
In a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Harder alleges that in both of these instances, Ryan was actually retaliating against him for his participation in the sexual harassment suit. Ryan denied that he had dismissed Harder’s requests to attend classes by telling him that “those who pour gasoline on a fire will not go to events that enhance their careers.”
At the outset of the hearing, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners also denied a motion from Steven’s to strike a portion of Ryan’s prior testimony, claiming that he had violated an order not to discuss testimony with witnesses.
During the Dec. 29 hearing, Ryan testified that he had recently spoken to Officer Marcin Scislowicz about his previous testimony concerning overtime hours he had worked when Harder was out sick. Lucansky argued that Ryan was not trying to influence future testimony but rather to “clarify a point” of confusion.
Ryan’s testimony will resume on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 4 p.m.