Forest Park Police Chief James Ryan took the stand again last week at the termination hearing of Sgt. Dan Harder and repeatedly accused Harder of lying in his testimony before the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.
Ryan was called to testify for a second time as his attorney, Patrick Lucansky, began his rebuttal case after the defense rested.
Ryan repeatedly used the term “a complete and total fabrication” when asked about Harder’s testimony.
Ryan also testified he has learned that Harder allegedly engaged in a scheme to pad his hours when Harder was the detective sergeant. Ryan claimed that Harder and Sgt. Maureen Frawley, who was part of a sexual harassment lawsuit against the village with Harder and two other officers and who is now on medical leave, had a scheme where one of them would call in sick at the last moment so the other could stay and work overtime and build up comp time.
Ryan also testified that Harder padded his hours in other ways when he was detective sergeant. If Harder received a call on a case outside of normal business hours and had to make a phone call about the case, Ryan alleged, he would put in for four hours of comp time. If Harder actually had to go to a crime scene, he would put in for six hours of comp time, Ryan said. Ryan testified that he was just informed of this scheme two weeks ago by his secretary Dora Murphy, who is married to Police Sergeant Mike Murphy, whom Harder has accused of threatening him.
Ryan testified that Harder was difficult to locate and not around much when he was detective sergeant.
“When he was a detective sergeant, there was no accountability for his time,” Ryan testified. “When Sgt. Harder was a detective sergeant, he basically came and went as he pleased. … He was never around. He was difficult to locate. To the best of my knowledge, he never showed up for roll call at all.”
During a contentious cross-examination by Harder’s attorney, Jeanine Stevens, Ryan admitted that he never documented any concerns that he had about Harder’s work hours. Ryan countered that he addressed the problem by transferring Harder to the more structured job of patrol sergeant.
“I transferred him because of poor job performance,” Ryan said. “I discussed it with him. I didn’t think it was necessary [to document it].”
But Stevens pursued the point.
“Do you have any reason to believe he did not work eight hours a day?” Stevens asked Ryan. “No I do not,” answered Ryan.
Ryan testified that Harder has a standing Wednesday golf date with his father during work hours, but that Harder never took any time off to account for it. But on cross-examination, Ryan admitted that he did not know how many hours Harder worked after playing golf with his father.
Harder had accumulated so much comp time that Ryan ordered Harder to take enough time off to reduce his comp time to the 120 hours allowed by the union contract to be carried over to subsequent years.
“I was the first chief who scrutinized comp time,” said Ryan.
But Stevens criticized Ryan for documenting minor violations by Harder but never once documenting in writing Harder’s alleged pattern of not actually working the hours that he said he did.
Ryan also admitted that he never wrote a performance appraisal of Harder.
When Harder testified previously, he said that Ryan told him he was a snitch and a troublemaker and wouldn’t have the problems that he has if he had not embarrassed the village with his participation in the sexual harassment lawsuit.
“That conversation never occurred and that was a total fabrication by Sgt. Harder,” said Ryan who repeated that sentence many times throughout his testimony when asked about claims Harder had made while testifying.
Ryan also testified that he has never raised his voice to a Forest Park employee, a statement that made Frawley, sitting behind Harder at the hearing as she usually does, roll her eyes.
“I haven’t raised my voice at an employee since I was at Forest Park,” said Ryan.
Ryan also testified that Harder was evasive when questioned about a safe that was used for petty cash in the police department. Harder claimed the safe was his and the department’s safe was in an abandoned building at the Altenheim.
But when Ryan ordered Harder to open the safe, Harder told him he did not remember the combination to the safe and that it was written down in the front flap of a book in his office. But after looking for the combination, allegedly Harder said he could not find it.
“I thought it was very odd that his personal safe was in the detective’s division and the department safe is in an abandoned building a mile away,” said Ryan. “He appeared to me very evasive.”
Ryan ultimately took possession of the safe and said Harder has not offered any evidence that the safe was his property.
Stevens accused Ryan of targeting Harder because of Harder’s involvement in the sexual harassment suit against the village.
“You were on a mission to take his job and destroy his career,” said Stevens. Ryan countered he knew little of the details of the sexual harassment case since that occurred before he became chief of police in August of 2003.
“I had heard that there was a sexual harassment claim,” said Ryan, adding that he bore no animosity for Harder because of it. Ryan said the sexual harassment claim against former police chief Ed Pope ultimately led to Ryan getting the job as chief of police, so he had no reason to be angry about it.
Stevens has argued that Ryan is acting at the behest of Mayor Anthony Calderone in trying to terminate Harder because he is mad about the cost and embarrassment that the suit caused for the village.
The long-running Harder hearing is finally approaching the end. After Ryan finished testifying, Sgt. Michael Keating and Detective Pete Morrissette made very brief appearances to testify again.
Lucansky said he planned to recall only five more witnesses in his rebuttal case-Mayor Calderone; Sally Cody, the administrative assistant to Calderone; Village Administrator Michael Sturino, Lt. Steve Knack, and Mary Hibbitts. Lucansky said he expected their rebuttal testimony would be very brief.
Hearing officer Charles Hervas then told both attorneys to be ready to give their closing arguments at the next hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at village hall.