Mayor Anthony Calderone told the Fire and Police Commission he did in fact come to an agreement with Lt. Steve Johnsen regarding disciplinary sanctions for the officer’s alleged mishandling of an investigation last year, but then said he may not have had the authority to do so.

Under questioning from Johnsen’s attorney during a termination hearing for the officer on Oct. 25, Calderone said that when he struck the deal with Johnsen on May 3, he believed he was acting within the scope of his authority. However, the mayor added that after speaking with the village attorney, he learned otherwise.

“Apparently in this case that is not correct,” Calderone said. “The ultimate person responsible for imposing that discipline was the chief of police. The person responsible for perfecting and proposing discipline was the chief of police.”

Chief Jim Ryan is attempting to have Johnsen terminated for allegedly botching the investigation that led to Jim Shaw’s arrest in July of 2005. Shaw was charged for his role in an altercation with Commissioner Patrick Doolin, a friend and business partner of Johnsen’s.

Testimony at the Oct. 25 hearing centered on Johnsen’s motion to dismiss the charges, which argues that because a punishment was already imposed, additional sanctions can not be rendered.

Ryan said he was not part of any deal, thus the mayor’s agreement is void.

Calderone testified he met privately with Johnsen on May 3 at his business office on West 15th Street. According to Calderone, Johnsen proposed that he give up 10 vacation days and that a letter of reprimand be placed in his file.

“The issue of the 10 days and the letter of reprimand was discussed,” Calderone said. “Lt. Johnsen and I had an agreement. He and I had a meeting of the minds.”

They shook hands at least once on the deal, Calderone testified.

After the meeting with Johnsen, Calderone said he then spoke with Village Attorney Mike Durkin about implementing the agreement.

“Subsequent to the meeting I spoke to the village attorney and the village attorney told me that discipline had to come from the chief of police,” Calderone said.

Ryan testified that Calderone never told him he had reached an agreement with Johnsen.

Under Forest Park’s commission form of government the mayor is the commissioner of the Department of Public Affairs, which includes the police department.

Ryan also testified Johnsen was placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 28 following an in-house investigation. Upon returning to work May 8, after the alleged agreement with Calderone, Johnsen was assigned to “desk duty,” Ryan said.

“He had a position of no authority at all,” Ryan said. “Basically his job is to shuttle cars down to the garage. He has completely no supervisory authority. He was going to ride the desk until this situation was resolved.”

The bulk of Ryan’s testimony was devoted to a painstaking review of timekeeping records where Stevens sought to show that Johnsen worked 10 days this past summer when he was scheduled to be on vacation.

Johnsen was scheduled to be on vacation the week of May 15 and from June 26 to July 7.

Ryan first denied that Johnsen gave up any vacation time, but later said he wasn’t sure if Johnsen worked those 10 days.

“I don’t know if he was working or not,” Ryan said.

When confronted with e-mails and memos written by Johnsen on the days in question, Ryan conceded that Johnsen must have worked those days.

The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8.

Motion to compel succinctly denied

The Fire and Police Commission quickly denied a motion filed by Jeanine Stevens, attorney for Lt. Steve Johnsen, that Chairwoman Amy Rita be compelled to disclose more information about her financial relationships with Jim Shaw, Mayor Anthony Calderone and Johnsen.

Previously, Rita stated the community newspaper she publishes has accepted advertising revenue from Shaw's Madison Street bar Doc Ryan's, along with a $250 Christmas present from Calderone's campaign committee in 2002.

At the Oct. 25 hearing she said her paper sold an advertisement to Johnsen's campaign committee when he unsuccessfully ran for Proviso Township Trustee in 2005.

"Nothing in Commissioner Rita's statements in her opinion, or my opinion, represents a conflict of interest," hearing officer Charles Hervas said. "Therefore the motion is denied."

Bob Skolnik