Closing statements in the year-long termination hearing for a suspended police officer will take place next week, and Sgt. Dan Harder’s attorney said she has sufficient grounds for an appeal in federal court.
During the final evidentiary hearing on Sept. 12, attorney Jeanine Stevens filed a motion on Harder’s behalf requesting the Fire and Police Commission remove its attorney Charles Hervas, who has presided over the hearings. The motion was based on Stevens’ claim that Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan recently hired Hervas for legal work that was “outside his duties” as the commission’s attorney.
Hervas has supervised the hearings, deciding what evidence will be admitted. Hervas is not a voting member of the commission.
“The plaintiff in this case has hired the judge to represent him,” Stevens said. “That’s wrong. That’s flat out wrong.”
Commissioners deliberated on the motion for approximately five minutes before voting unanimously to deny Harder’s motion.
According to Stevens, Chief Ryan presented a bill he received from Hervas to Village Administrator Mike Sturino for $1,110.65. That bill was for legal services in Ryan’s attempt to hire former police officer Debra Taylor as a civilian evidence technician.
Ryan said his question related specifically to Taylor’s pension.
Sturino confirmed he has denied Ryan’s request that the village pay the bill, and said the work was not authorized in the first place.
“It’s related to a matter that is not pending before the Fire and Police Commission,” Sturino said.
Until the issue is actually presented to the commission, Sturino said legal opinions will be rendered by Village Attorney Michael Durkin.
Hervas justified his review of Taylor’s pension as a matter that will likely come before the commission. He cited client confidentiality laws in declining to further explain the nature of the work, but said it in no way conflicts with his work on the Harder hearings.
“I was acting as the attorney of the Fire and Police Commission on a matter that might come before the Fire and Police Commission,” Hervas said.
Ryan’s attorney, Patrick Lucansky, said the point is moot because commission members will decide the case.
“They’re the judges,” Lucansky said. “They’re the ones that will decide.”
Sgt. Harder’s case was brought to commissioners one year ago when Ryan charged the officer with 10 violations of the department’s conduct policy. The bulk of the allegations stem from a June 4, 2005, incident in which Harder allegedly referred to a fellow officer as a “(expletive) idiot.”
Harder has been on paid administrative leave since June 11, 2005.
Though not part of the formal charges, the commission also received reports on the number of sick days used by Harder. In 2004, Harder took 21.5 sick days. In the first 165 days of 2005, he used 54.5 sick days, according to the reports.
At the time Ryan submitted the information, police sergeants were allowed 80 sick days per year. A records request filed by the Forest Park Review in 2005 for the number of sick days used by each of Forest Park’s police officers was denied by the village.
A new contract with the police department was approved by the village council in July, limiting sick time to 1.5 days per month.
Attorneys for both sides will give their closing arguments on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. in the village hall.