A federally indicted police officer who is under suspension will benefit from a fundraising event this month that’s being organized by a member of the Forest Park village council. Commissioner Mark Hosty said he is part of a group of “family and friends” selling tickets at $40 a piece to attend a Dec. 29 soiree at a Hillside bar, which is owned by Hosty.
The money raised will help pay for Sgt. Mike Murphy’s legal defense against a pair of felony criminal charges stemming from a beating the officer allegedly carried out on a homeless man while he was on-duty in August of 2003. Murphy has not been allowed to return to work since the October indictment was handed down, but he is still receiving a paycheck.
Despite his role as a member of the government that employs Murphy, Hosty denied that his effort presents the potential for conflicts.
“I don’t think so,” Hosty said. “If you had a friend falsely accused of something, wouldn’t you help him out?”
The village of Forest Park has not been named as a party in the case. In 2004 the village paid a $50,000 settlement to Sidney Hooks, the alleged victim, when Hooks sued the municipality and Murphy.
The commissioner acknowledged he is a longtime friend of Murphy’s and said the relationship goes back to childhood when his mother taught Murphy in the third-grade. Hosty declined to say specifically who else was organizing the fundraiser, and said he couldn’t readily recall those who have contributed to the cause. Friends and family of Murphy’s are being solicited, Hosty said.
News of the fundraiser has reached other village officials and employees. The chairwoman of the Fire and Police Commission, Amy Rita, said she was aware of the event but was not involved in any way. She assumed as much for the commission’s two other members.
The Fire and Police Commission is charged with handling disciplinary matters in the police department, but as of yet has not played a role in Murphy’s case. Should the village seek to place Murphy on unpaid suspension or terminate him, the body would have to give its approval.
Commissioners Mike Curry and Marty Tellalian confirmed they too, are aware of the event and said they have not decided whether they will participate. Tellalian said he could not predict a scenario in which a commissioner’s support of Murphy would jeopardize the village.
“I’m inclined to go, as much to learn about Mike Murphy and the situation he’s in,” Tellalian said.
Curry said he trusted Hosty’s judgment in avoiding a potential conflict.
“I do agree there potentially could be a conflict of interest,” Curry said. “However, Commissioner Hosty has decided to help one of our officers and I think it’s great he’s decided to help one of our officers. I don’t think he’s putting the village in jeopardy.”
A phone call to Mayor Anthony Calderone was not immediately returned. Village Administrator Mike Sturino is on vacation and did not return a call to his cell phone.
“I’m not prepared to pass judgment on whether an elected official should or should not do something,” Commissioner Rory Hoskins said. “Mark Hosty and Mike Murphy are childhood friends, so it kind of goes beyond the role of an elected official and a police officer.”
Hoskins said he will be out of town on the date of the event and “may or may not make a donation.”
“I probably would not be in the habit of holding fundraisers for indicted police officers myself, but again, he is a childhood friend [of Hosty’s],” Hoskins said.
Murphy, 42, is free on bond. A trial has not yet been scheduled for the 17-year police veteran.