Forest Park Police Lieutenant Steve Johnsen testified last week that Mayor Anthony Calderone once offered him the job of police chief of Forest Park. But Johnsen said he did not accept the position for three reasons, one of which was that he thought that Calderone was crooked.
Johnsen testified, under oath, at the termination hearing for Sgt. Dan Harder that he was offered the position in a conversation with Calderone at Louie’s Grill located at 7422 Madison St. in Forest Park in October of 2002. Johnsen testified that Calderone offered him the job only on the condition that Johnsen resign his police commission and serve as a civilian police chief and that he sever his business relationship with Village Commissioner Patrick Doolin and cease his real estate work.
Johnsen and Doolin were partners from 2000-2004 in the Doolin and Johnsen real estate agency. They are both currently associated with Remax Realtors.
“The mayor told me that a business partnership was like a marriage and that he felt I would more loyal to Patrick Doolin than I would be to him,” said Johnsen.
Johnsen also testified that he was then 44 years old and did not want to stop paying into the police pension program and that he did not want to give up the job security he had as a commissioned police officer.
Stevens then asked Johnsen if he any other reasons for not accepting the job that he said was offered to him.
“I think Tony Calderone is crooked and I won’t work for him” Johnsen testified.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Calderone acknowledged that he did meet with Johnsen at Louie’s Grill. But Calderone said the meeting came about at Johnsen’s request and that he never offered Johnsen the job of police chief.
“That’s an out and out lie,” said Calderone when informed of Johnsen’s testimony. “Steve Johnsen was never offered the job. I met with Steve Johnsen at Louie’s Grill. We met at Louie’s Grill as a consequence of Steve Johnsen calling me on my Nextel walkie-talkie on the afternoon that Carl Dobbs was appointed interim chief of police. He was upset because he wasn’t being considered for chief…Because of his friendship with me he felt he should be automatically appointed.”
Johnsen worked on Calderone’s campaign for mayor in 1999 but is now a close ally of Calderone’s rival Doolin.
Dobbs was appointed interim chief of police after former police chief Ed Pope resigned. Before Dobbs was appointed, Johnsen, then deputy chief of police, was running the police department for a few weeks.
Calderone did confirm some aspects of Johnsen’s testimony.
“Within that conversation some of what he is saying is accurate,” said Calderone. Calderone said that he did talk to Johnsen about Johnsen’s real estate work with Doolin.
“I was concerned that he was working for two masters,” said Calderone.
But Calderone firmly denied ever offering the job of chief of police to Johnsen.
Commissioner Tim Gillian has a unique perspective on this controversy. Gillian was friends with Johnsen for a long time and said that he is the Godfather of one of Johnsen’s children. Gillian is also a political ally of Calderone.
Gillian has served as an auxiliary police officer in Forest Park and said Monday night that he has spent many hours riding around with Johnsen in a police car and the two have talked many, many times. Gillian admitted that he was not at Louie’s Grill when the conversation between Johnsen and Calderone took place. But Gillian said that he does not believe Calderone ever offered Johnsen the job of police chief.
“I can tell you unequivocally that Steve Johnsen complained bitterly about not getting that job,” said Gillian. “It’s extremely unbelievable that Tony would have offered him that job. Steve complained to me personally, bitterly, about not getting that job. It is, in my opinion, a boldfaced lie that Steve Johnsen told. He was really disappointed that he didn’t get it. It really is just sour grapes.”
At the hearing Johnsen was not asked why he thought Calderone was crooked and the rest of his testimony was mostly a rehash of his relationship with Carl Dobbs and Jim Ryan.
At the previous hearing Patrick Lucansky, the attorney representing Police Chief James Ryan in his attempt to fire Harder aggressively cross examined Johnsen and suggested that Johnsen’s testimony was influenced by his bitterness at not being appointed police chief to replace Pope. Johnsen was also removed from the position of Deputy Police Chief after Ryan was hired.
Johnsen testified that he had no interest in being police chief while Calderone was mayor.
“I would never work for this mayor,” said Johnsen.
Johnsen testified that he believed Ryan was trying to fire Harder because Calderone was angry that Harder had joined in a sexual harassment suit by some female police officers against the village.
“Tony Calderone has a very long memory about things and there was no way Dan Harder would survive this affront without ramifications,” said Johnsen.
Johnsen also testified that Calderone runs the police department. He pointed to a 30th birthday party gathering for former village manager Matt O’Shea at Healy’s Westside on Madison Street in June of 2002.
Johnsen testified that in the presence of village commissioner Mark Hosty, Doolin, and Amy Rita, the current chairperson of the board of Fire and Police Commissioners, Calderone told Johnsen that the only reason he was deputy chief was that Calderone had made him deputy chief. Johnsen also testified that Calderone said that everything that happened in the police department was because of him.
Calderone denied that version of events.
“It speaks of the issue of Steve Johnsen to lie and to lie under oath,” said Calderone. “It speaks to the issue of his twisted portrayal of events and the way they really occurred.”
Calderone said that Ryan, not himself, runs the police department.
“I don’t exercise any superhuman powers,” said Calderone.
The next hearing will take place Thursday night at 4 p.m. at village hall.