Memories are strange things. Sometimes we can remember the smallest detail of some insignificant event that happened many years ago but at the same time can’t remember what we had for lunch earlier in the day. I’m often referred to as a ‘freak’ by my fiancé because I can remember details of sporting events held years ago. I hold her in the same loving regard for her ability to recall what so and so wore to a wedding a decade ago.
I remember being at work listening to Don Wade on WLS when the news broke about the Challenger tragedy. I clearly remember being at my aunt and uncles house in Cicero when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon. I don’t however have any recall as to the Kennedy assassination in 1963. Memories are sometimes fickle.
The Review of last week jogged another memory of mine. I distinctly remember being at my son’s flag football game at the Park District in the fall of 2002 when Lt. Steve Johnsen told me that Mayor Anthony Calderone had offered him the position of Police Chief with some very large strings attached. Johnsen needed to sever his business ties with his partner, and now Commissioner Patrick Doolin. Johnsen needed to also give up his civil service protection. Two things he has said he would not do. Reading the article was like having déjà vu all over again. It’s hard to understand how the Mayor’s recollection of events could be so different from Johnsen’s and mine. Perhaps his memory is fickle.
For those who don’t know, I am good friends with Steve, his wife Karen and their family. No, not good friends, great friends for almost thirty years. I stood up in their wedding. Like Commissioner Tim Gillian, I am a godfather to one of their children. I’ve got the curly headed one. However, unlike Gillian I would not sell my friendship with the Johnsens for thirty pieces of silver.
Of course, some might say that Johnsen merely planted that information in my head in 2002 with the knowledge that four years later political allies would have changed, that the village would be amidst a lawsuit, and that I’d write about it.
Let me make one thing clear. I would not lie for Steve. Not in my column, not in a court of law, not in the kangaroo court that the Harder hearing has become. Let’s not forget that this all stems from the Police Department’s embarrassing attempt to fire Sgt. Dan Harder.
It doesn’t matter which side of this argument you are on. The fact of the matter is the village’s case is horribly weak. Mr. Lucansky, the village’s attorney, spends most of his time objecting to everything Harder’s attorney Jeanine Stevens does, because those are the only arrows left in his quiver. The village’s case has taken a further hit recently as some of the testifying village employees developed an almost comical condition of selective amnesia.
This hearing is now officially out of control. When former long-time friends and village employees start calling each other liars in public, and under oath, it’s an indication that hearing has impacted more individuals than Harder and Chief James Ryan. When people start boycotting village events, bars, restaurants, banks, and realtors in town because of political loyalties, we’ve reached the precipice.
The point of no return for the village, in this issue, is quickly approaching, if it isn’t already here. What should have been a rather mundane, in-house personnel issue has been bungled for close to a year and now personal reputations on both sides of the political aisle are being tarnished, possibly permanently.
Because this case can get uglier, for the good of the village and those individuals drawn into this drama, it needs to end quickly; before more people are dragged through the mud created by lies, rumors and innuendo. There is only one person who can start the process of the village putting this all behind us. That person is Mayor Calderone.
He needs to instruct the village legal team to prepare an offer for Sgt. Harder. While many of Harder’s opponents will see this as surrendering, the fact is you can pay him now, or you can pay him later. Later will cost significantly more. Any reasonable and sincere offer should be made public, and made soon. And if team Harder rejects that reasonable and sincere offer made by the village, all the Harder haters will be vindicated in their thoughts about the “real reason” behind the lawsuit.
If the village cuts its losses now it will ultimately save the taxpayers money. With this “found” money, the village would be well advised to purchase some common sense and some lie detectors for future use.