Visitors at Village Hall on Monday afternoon might have thought they had taken a time machine back to 2005, as Lt. Steve Johnsen could be seen walking the halls, sporting a full police uniform as if the last few months had never happened.
Johnsen, a 24-year veteran of the police department, has been on paid leave since February, when a private investigator hired by the village handed in a report accusing him of committing several violations when arresting Doc Ryan’s owner Jim Shaw following a village council meeting last June.
Bob Johnson, the private investigator who worked on the case, had recommended termination or long-term suspension in response to Johnsen’s alleged violations. Johnsen, however, clearly was not fired, and had he been suspended the matter would have had to be heard before the village’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.
Though some sort of settlement with Johnsen has apparently been reached, officials are remaining tight-lipped in regards to any details. Village Administrator Michael Sturino referred questions on the matter to Mayor Anthony Calderone, who also declined to comment.
Several other individuals close to the situation who were contacted said they had given their word that they would not discuss the issue with the media.
Johnsen had Shaw arrested for assault and disorderly conduct on July 25, after a verbal confrontation between Shaw and Commissioner Patrick Doolin, Johnsen’s former partner in a real-estate business. Doolin filed a complaint with police after the incident alleging that Shaw had assaulted him, a charge which Shaw denied, claiming that Doolin had exaggerated the extent of the incident.
The charges against Shaw were later dropped, and Shaw then filed a complaint with the police department alleging that Johnsen, who was serving as the watch commander on duty the night of the arrest, had him arrested improperly.
The village then hired Bob Johnson in November at a rate of $100 per hour to investigate what exactly happened that night and whether Johnsen had overstepped his authority by making the arrest. Three months later, Johnson concluded that Lt. Johnsen had not properly investigated the matter before having Shaw arrested and withheld details concerning the arrest from Police Chief James Ryan, and recommended that he be suspended or fired.
At the time, the wheels seemed to be set in motion for another drawn out termination hearing mirroring the current hearing for Sgt. Dan Harder. Johnsen, who has maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, hired Harder attorney Jeanine Stevens, while the village retained the legal services of Tom Melody of the law firm Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, the same firm it has employed for the Harder case, to handle the matter.
Political accusations flew both ways, with Johnsen’s critics saying he had Shaw arrested as a favor to Doolin, and the village’s critics alleging that Johnsen was being treated unfairly due to his affiliation with Doolin, a political rival of Mayor Anthony Calderone, who is also the commissioner in charge of the police department.
Johnsen was soon placed on leave, and no action was taken for several months, though rumors persisted that the village was attempting to negotiate a deal with Johnsen to prevent another hearing.
Calderone said he felt it would be “entirely inappropriate to comment,” on the settlement, stating that the matter concerns personnel issues and therefore must be handled privately.