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In a split decision last week, the Fire and Police Commission voted to terminate Sgt. Dan Harder four months after overwhelmingly siding with Chief James Ryan that the officer violated several department policies.
A brief meeting of the commission was held on Feb. 1 for the sole purpose of rendering a punitive decision in the case. More than a half-dozen officers from the Forest Park Police Department sat behind the chief as the decision was announced. Harder did not attend the hearing and he appeared to have no supporters in the gallery.
Fire and Police Commission member Glenn Garlisch cast the dissenting vote in a 2-1 decision to release the veteran officer. During the Oct. 12, 2006, meeting at which the commission voted to sustain charges of misconduct lodged by Ryan, Garlisch voted not to sustain allegations that Harder abused the department’s policy on sick time.
In August 2005, Ryan filed seven complaints that Harder violated the department’s code of conduct by calling a subordinate officer a (“expletive) idiot.” Two more charges asserted that Harder was dishonest in his communications with the chief and a single charge alleged the officer abused the sick time policy.
Following Thursday’s hearing, Garlisch declined to comment on his vote, citing pending litigation in U.S. District Court.
Chairwoman Amy Rita voted with Brad Zandstra to terminate Harder. Rita also declined to comment on the decision, and said the justification will be outlined in a written opinion in roughly 30 days.
In October 2005, Harder filed suit against the village and several employees individually for civil rights violations. In his complaint, Harder alleges that Ryan and Mayor Anthony Calderone retaliated against him for a sexual harassment case filed by Harder and two female officers several years ago. That sexual harassment case was settled out of court in May 2004.
According to federal court documents, Harder is demanding a jury trial in that case.
Reached at his home, Harder declined to comment on the Fire and Police Commission’s ruling.
Just days before Harder was fired, former lieutenant. Steve Johnsen retired from the department in the middle of a similar hearing before the same commission. In both cases, Ryan was asking that each officer be terminated.
Immediately prior to terminating Harder, the Fire and Police Commission met for roughly six minutes in executive session to deliberate a motion filed by defense attorney Jeanine Stevens arguing that Harder is owed 495 days worth of pay. That motion was unanimously denied.