Officer's firing sought for foul language (F-word)

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Sep 8 14:58:28 UTC 2005

>>From the Forest Park Review, Oak Park, IL 60302

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Officers firing sought for foul language, excessive sick days
Some say move is politically motivated


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Forest Park Board of Fire and Police Commissioners unanimously voted
on Thursday to suspend Sgt. Dan Harder without pay as his attorneys
prepare to defend him against charges brought by Police Chief James Ryan
which could lead to Harders termination. Harder is facing 10 charges, most
of which stem from an incident on June 4, when Harder allegedly called
Officer Young Lee a "******* idiot" on two separate occasions. Harder
allegedly asked Lee to respond to a call to assist the fire department
with traffic control, and Lee asked Harder to assign the call to Officer
Marcin Scislowics, who usually works that beat.

According to the charges brought before the police commission, Harder
replied, "its 2:36 (a.m.), go take the call you ******* idiot." When Lee
asked Harder not to call him that, he allegedly replied, "go take the call
idiot," and then referred to him as a "******* idiot" again while leaving
the room. Harder is also charged with taking excessive amounts of sick
days and lying about his whereabouts during one of those sick days. Still,
several political critics of Mayor Anthony Calderone, who asked not to be
named, said that the charges against Harder are actually a means of
political retribution, calling the Fire and Police Commissioners a
kangaroo court comprised of Calderones associates.

Harder was one of three plaintiffs in a 2002 sexual harassment suit
brought against the police department, former Police Chief Ed Pope and
then Deputy Chief of Police Michael Cody. In that case, Harder alleged
that Pope had repeatedly sexually harassed him and falsely insinuated that
he was a homosexual. He eventually settled for $46,666. Calderone attended
the hearing last week, but said he had just dropped in to observe the
procedure of a Police and Fire Commission hearing. He noted, however, that
the village takes abuse of sick days extremely seriously, and dismissed
the notion that retribution was involved.

Sources have also told the Review that Harder has served as a
"whistleblower" in the past on issues ranging from alleged abuse of
prisoners by police officers to falsified police reports. "Dan Harder has
become the poster child for what happens when you speak up," said Steve
Backman of the group Citizens United in Forest Park (CUinFP), of which
Harder is a member. CUinFP has been behind a recent push for the Village
to adapt a Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act, which would provide
protections for Village employees who wish to report the misdeeds of their

Ryan said he could not comment on the case since it is now a legal matter.
The charges stemming from the incident involving Officer Lee mostly
include violations of the section of the police department policy book
entitled employee conduct, which states that "employees, whether on duty
or off duty, will follow ordinary and reasonable rules of good conduct and
behavior," and also demands that employees be "courteous to others and
"avoid using coarse, violent, profane or insolent language or gestures"
while performing their duties.

Harder is also charged with lying to Ryan about his whereabouts on June 10
after calling in sick for the day. The charges state that Ryan called
Harder at home, and his wife answered and said he was at work. He then
left him a voicemail on his cell phone. When Harder called back, the
charges state, he first said he had been at home, but when Ryan asked how
he could have been at home when his wife thought he was at work, Harder
said he had been "driving around" for several hours. When he was later
interrogated regarding the conversation, Harder allegedly denied telling
Ryan that he had been at home.

According to the charges, Harder took 21.5 sick days in 2004, and in the
first 165 days of 2005 took 54.5 sick days and a total of 105.5 days off.
Harder has been on paid administrative leave since June 11. Ryans
attorney, Patrick Lucansky, successfully argued that allowing Harder to
remain on paid leave would have a negative impact on morale among the
police. Harders attorney Erica Raskoph, who works for the Fraternal Order
of Police, argued that an unpaid suspension would be financially
burdensome for Harder, who has two young children. Lucansky noted that if
Harder is eventually acquitted of the charges against him, his pay for the
period of the suspension would be returned.

The closed session meeting of the commissioners that ended in the decision
to suspend Harder lasted about 10 minutes, after which the date of the
next hearing was tentatively set for Thursday, Oct. 13.

Content  2005 Forest Park Review

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