A promise from the chairwoman of the Fire and Police Commission to objectively hear the evidence against Lt. Steve Johnsen apparently isn’t enough for the officer and his attorney.
Three weeks after unsuccessfully arguing that Amy Rita, the chairwoman of the commission should not hear the case because of perceived conflicts, attorney Jeanine Stevens filed a new motion asking that Rita disclose her financial relationships with business owner Jim Shaw, Lt. Johnsen, and a financial or quid pro quo relationship with Mayor Anthony Calderone.
That motion and several others will be taken up at the Oct. 25 termination hearing for Johnsen. The commission is charged with upholding or refuting Chief Jim Ryan’s request to terminate the officer.
Stevens also filed an amended motion to dismiss the charges against Johnsen, arguing her client was already disciplined for his role in arresting Shaw after a village council meeting in July, 2005. Shaw has since filed suit against the police department and Johnsen individually.
In her motion seeking to compel Rita to disclose her financial relationships to people involved in the case, Stevens argued that “Rita’s failure to disclose the extent of her relationship with Shaw and Calderone is troubling and severely undermines the credibility of her assertions that she could be fair.”
At an Oct. 5 hearing Rita acknowledged that a community newspaper she publishes has received advertising revenue from Shaw’s business, Doc Ryans. Rita also said she was paid for advertising from Johnsen’s real estate business and that the payments would not affect her ability to be fair.
Stevens is asking that “Rita be compelled to produce documents evidencing any financial relationship and explain her exact relationship with Shaw and Calderone,” according to the motion.
In a statement at the Oct. 5 hearing Rita also acknowledged receiving a $250 gift in 2002 from Citizens for Calderone, the mayor’s campaign finance committee. That money too, she said, would not impair her ability to remain impartial.
In the amended motion to dismiss the charges against Johnsen, Stevens fleshed out her argument that discipline has already been imposed and Johnsen cannot face additional sanctions. Stevens pointed to a May 30, 2006, letter to the editor from Calderone to the Forest Park Review in which Calderone wrote that “appropriate discipline was imposed upon Lt. Johnsen.”
According to Stevens’ motion, that discipline included a letter of reprimand that was placed in Johnsen’s personnel file and the officer’s relinquishing of 10 days worth of paid vacation.
It wasn’t until Johnsen testified that Calderone was “crooked” before the same commission on a different matter that police Chief Ryan moved to fire him, Stevens argued in her motion.
The charges against Johnsen were brought one month after Johnsen’s testimony last summer.
In his request for termination, Chief Ryan is accusing Johnsen of botching the investigation that lead to Shaw’s arrest. Shaw was arrested after a confrontation last year with village Commissioner Patrick Doolin, a longtime friend and business partner of Johnsen’s.
Review publisher Dan Haley was served with a subpoena to testify at the Oct. 25 hearing, however, the publisher’s attorney is attempting to quash the request. According to attorney Don Craven’s written response, Haley and the Forest Park Review are protected by “reporter’s privilege.”
A subpoena for a copy of Calderone’s letter published in the Review was not challenged.