First posted 12/15/2008 9:18 p.m.
An intense and enduring legal struggle between Forest Park and a former police officer has apparently ended with village council members voting Monday night to settle a federal lawsuit.
In a 4-1 decision during the Dec. 15 council meeting, the commissioners opted not to further prolong the battle with former sergeant Dan Harder. Terms of the settlement, which has not yet been approved by the court, were not disclosed. However, while casting his vote in favor of the agreement, Commissioner Marty Tellalian said he does so “with the knowledge that this caps our liability.” Following the meeting, Tellalian declined to comment on the agreement.
A source familiar with the settlement explained that the village’s insurance provider informed the council that it would cover only a limited portion of any financial award, should Harder prevail in court. By agreeing to the settlement, the village avoids risking its own money in a civil trial.
According to Forest Park’s liability insurance plan, the village is covered for up to $1 million in damages. Any lost wages, overtime, past benefits or severance packages would not be covered. The source familiar with the agreement said the insurance company agreed to a figure that is less than the $1 million maximum, but declined to give any specific figures.
Commissioner Mark Hosty cast the lone vote against the agreement, and did so noting his “emphatic” objections.
“I just think don’t think it was the best decision; it might have been prudent,” Hosty said after the meeting.
Harder was fired from the police department by a vote of the Fire and Police Commission on Feb. 1, 2007. His civil complaint is being heard in Chicago’s U.S. District Court. However, the case has essentially been on hold while the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hears an argument from the commission that Harder’s firing was not “arbitrary and unreasonable,” as determined by the district court in May.
Harder declined to comment on the settlement.
Harder filed his wrongful termination suit against the village in October 2005 just as the municipal hearing to strip his badge got under way. He claimed that he was the target of a vindictive mayor who used the police chief to orchestrate his downfall. That revenge, according to the original complaint, was motivated by Harder’s involvement in sexual harassment lawsuits filed by members of the police department.