A one-time payment of $350,000 to former police sergeant Dan Harder was enough to end a brutal and protracted courtroom squabble between Harder and his former employer, the village of Forest Park.
A copy of the settlement agreement, approved Dec. 15 by village council members, was released to the Review in response to a request filed under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The 15-page document outlines the terms of Harder’s compensation and summarizes the dispute that first began in 2005.
In signing the deal, neither party admits any wrongdoing, nor do they concede any of the arguments that were presented. For example, the village and individual defendants still contend that there was good reason to place Harder on paid administrative leave in June 2005, that they were justified in later revoking his pay, and that there was a solid basis for stripping him of his badge.
“Conversely, Mr. Harder disagrees that good cause existed for any of these steps taken against him,” according to the contract.
The lump sum payment was made Dec. 19 by the village’s insurance company and represents the entirety of the compensation. Each party in the case is responsible for their own attorney’s fees.
Also critical to the agreement is the retroactive reinstatement of the former officer. The village agreed to effectively rehire Harder at the rank of sergeant as of Sept. 1, 2005. However, he will not be returning to work, nor will he receive any wages as a result of the reinstatement. On the day the officer’s check was issued, he tendered his resignation with the understanding that he will never work for the village of Forest Park in any capacity.
“Mr. Harder is not waiving any rights he may have to retirement benefits accrued under the village of Forest Park police pension fund,” the agreement stipulates. “The parties agree that the sole authority for determining any pension benefits rests only with the Forest Park Police Pension Board.”
Harder is responsible for three years’ worth of pension-fund contributions as a result of the reinstatement.
Harder was fired from the police department by a vote of the Fire and Police Commission on Feb. 1, 2007. His civil complaint was being heard in Chicago’s U.S. District Court. However, the case was essentially on hold while the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard an argument from the commission that Harder’s firing was not “arbitrary and unreasonable,” as determined by the district court in May.
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 usedA source familiar with the negotiations for the settlement said council members were motivated by the village’s insurance provider to avoid a trial. The insurance company, Scottsdale Insurance, told 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.
The village also ensured that any further discussion of the case by Harder will not be of a derogatory nature.
“Mr. Harder agrees that he will not at any time, directly or indirectly, either orally, in writing, or through any other medium, disparage, defame, impugn, or otherwise attempt to damage the reputation, integrity or professionalism of any of the Forest Park defendants, individually or collectively, regarding the subject matter of this lawsuit,” according to the settlement.