Someone wrote a series of bogus parking tickets to Mark Geinosky, but it was not Chicago police officers Paul Roque or Horst Hegewald, the Chicago Police Board has ruled.
In a 25-page decision posted Tuesday afternoon, the board found the officers not guilty, and ordered Roque and Hegewald to be restored to their positions and granted pay and benefits dating back to Oct. 5, when Superintendent Garry McCarthy suspended them without pay.
“This is a great decision and I’m extremely happy for these two young men,” said Dan Herbert, their attorney. “They’re two really, really good guys. I just thought it was a bogus claim all along.”
The ruling adds yet another twist in Geinosky’s long and sometimes infuriating case, which started with a stack of unwarranted parking tickets in October 2007.
Over the next 14 months, the Orland Park resident received 24 tickets for infractions like parking too close to a fire hydrant, parking in a crosswalk or obstructing traffic. Geinosky was able to get all two dozen tickets thrown out in administrative court.
A federal lawsuit Geinosky filed against the city over the tickets continues to wend its way through the courts, and another officer who McCarthy wants fired still faces a separate Police Board hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
The case became public more than three years ago.
Arguing he was being harassed, Geinosky filed a complaint with the Chicago Police Department, but the department quickly closed the case, saying it does not investigate parking tickets.
Geinosky emailed What’s Your Problem? in February 2009. When the Problem Solver wrote about Geinosky for the first time on Feb. 24, 2009, he stopped receiving tickets and the police department relaunched its internal investigation.
More than two years later, McCarthy recommended four officers be fired for their alleged involvement in the incident, including Roque and Hegewald. McCarthy charged the officers with making false reports and bringing discredit upon the police department.
The officers argued that someone used old ticket books and forged their names or used pre-signed tickets to target Geinosky.
At a two-day Police Board hearing that started April 30, a handwriting expert testified he believed it was more probable someone other than Roque and Hegewald wrote the tickets that bore their names. In its ruling, the Police Board said “there is no question that someone harassed Mark Geinosky by issuing multiple, unwarranted parking tickets,” but it likely wasn’t Roque or Hegewald.
After reviewing the evidence, it wrote, “the Board is left with considerable doubt that Officer Hegewald wrote the false parking tickets at issue.” The board had similar doubts about Roque’s involvement.
Herbert said the allegations were hard on Roque and Hegewald, who struggled financially after their suspensions.
“It was really a tough situation for both of them. They handled it with class,” Herbert said. “Lesser men would have crumbled.”
Herbert said the police department’s internal investigation, and the subsequent case it presented to the Police Board, was shoddy.
“I still think a real investigation needs to be done in this case because Internal Affairs did not do a thorough investigation,” he said. “That was evident at the trial.”
Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said the city received a copy of the Police Board’s decision late Tuesday, and had not had a chance to review it.
“We can’t comment at this time,” he said.
Geinosky said he respects the Police Board’s ruling, but wasn’t surprised by the ruling because he felt there wasn’t enough evidence presented to prove Roque or Hegewald were involved.
“It’s pretty clear to me that it was a haphazard investigation,” Geinosky said. “It’s a ridiculous situation to be in. The city investigates themselves and can put a professional investigation together or a haphazard investigation together depending on whether they want to win.”
Geinosky’s attorney, Lawrence V. Jackowiak, said the federal lawsuit will continue.
“It doesn’t change one iota our conviction that the city is responsible for allowing this to happen,” Geinosky said. “Now we can get on with our investigation.”
No date has been set for the next hearing in Geinosky’s lawsuit, in which he claims “class-of-one” discrimination, denial of substantive due process rights and unlawful civil conspiracy.
Geinosky said he will continue to push to find the culprits.
Another officer McCarthy implicated in the case, William Whelehan, was fired by the Police Board in an unrelated case. Officer Steven Sabatino still faces internal charges for his alleged involvement in the ticket writing. A Police Board hearing has not been scheduled for Sabatino, who is currently serving with the Air National Guard in Afghanistan.
A fifth officer implicated in the case, Kenneth Wilkerson, quit before the investigation was completed.