Hobart cop hearing postpoined for new hearing officer
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent June 30, 2014 4:32PM
Hobart police patrolman Kirk Homoky | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 2, 2014 6:20AM
HOBART — An administrative hearing that could determine whether police officer Kirk Homoky will be terminated from the police force was postponed Monday after city officials reversed a previous decision and agreed to seek a new hearing officer to oversee the proceedings.
City Attorney Anthony DeBonis, who was slated to fill the role, was accused of being biased against Homoky and his attorney, Christopher Cooper, by Cooper.
DeBonis recommended the Board of Public Works and Safety approve Cooper’s request for a new hearing officer as a cautionary measure.
Cooper presented an email at Monday’s hearing that he said DeBonis sent to him on May 26, and that he said showed bias by DeBonis against Homoky and Cooper.
In the email, DeBonis reportedly said, “We will be there to defend and we will, in addition, ask the court to award the city fees for having to defend the meritless and moot cause of action you filed in federal court more than a year ago against the board.”
The lawsuit claims the police department violated Homoky’s rights when it suspended him without pay and sought his termination. Cooper said DeBonis also threatened to sue Kirk and himself.
“He disparaged my client, yet he wanted to be the hearing officer,” Cooper said.
“I’m pleased DeBonis did the right thing and recused himself,” said Cooper, who is being assisted in the case by Northwestern University law student Ryan Timmis.
DeBonis’ recommendation for a new hearing officer was approved by the Board of Public Works and Safety, which will determine Homoky’s fate, and Daniel Whitten, attorney for Police Chief Richard Zormier.
Zormier filed five administrative charges against Homoky and is seeking his termination.
Whitten said he disagrees with many of Cooper’s comments made at the hearing, but he was fine with the change of hearing officer based on public perception.
“But the charges (against Homoky) speak for themselves,” Whitten said. “I’d like to see this case tried on the merit of the charges.”
Whitten, a former police administrator, added, “Police officers shouldn’t screw up.”
DeBonis provided the names of three possible replacements, each of whom he said has held a high level of judicial office and none of whom should have any question of partiality. They include Jerome Ezell, an attorney and former Indiana state trooper; James Meyer, an attorney and former assistant U.S. attorney; and Joseph P. Allegretti, a former Hammond city judge.
DeBonis said Cooper has two days to strike one name from the list, then Whitten has two days to strike another name, with the remaining person being named the hearing officer. He said the new hearing officer would reschedule the administrative hearing based on everyone’s schedules.
Cooper said he believes it will be a lengthy trial.
Homoky is accused of violating the rules and regulations of the department by running multiple license plates of vehicles parked in front of his ex-wife’s house, taking $20 from a vehicle during a traffic stop then returning it when confronted, refusing to take a voice stress analysis test, cashing checks he was not entitled to and committing perjury during his own bankruptcy filing.
Criminal charges of theft and fraud on a financial institution that pertained to the missing $20 and cashed checks were dropped in a pretrial diversion program.