A River Forest deputy police chief’s duel role as a real estate agent has led to a number of ongoing repercussions within the department. A contractual disagreement between that deputy chief and a subordinate over a troubled 2006 real estate transaction has been at the center of a union grievance, a formal harassment complaint in May, and most recently was mentioned in a June vote of no confidence against the department’s chief and his two deputy chiefs.

“The problem is when your real estate deal goes bad and your real estate agent is your deputy chief,” the patrol officer involved said in a written complaint to Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez May 21.

The development has led to calls by some village trustees for public discussions of policies and procedures that may have allowed the problems to develop and persist.

The deputy chief, Daniel Dhooghe, is also an Aurora-based real estate agent and broker. According to sources in and out of the police department, he has handled the purchase or sale of houses for numerous River Forest police officers over the past several years. Dhooghe’s firm, Action Team Realty, has reportedly also functioned as the broker for houses bought and sold by employees of the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center, housed at River Forest village hall.

Dhoogie said Tuesday that the harassment complaint was a personnel issue that he wouldn’t comment on. He did acknowledge that there is a disagreement between him and an officer regarding the commission due, but had no further comment.

As for his role as a real estate agent, he said, “I’ve been doing this for 17 years. I’ve never solicited anyone here.”

Asked if others had done so for him, he replied, “Not that I’m aware of.”

“I just did what was suggested I do when I first started working here,” the officer wrote in her complaint. “And that was use Dan as an agent to buy or sell houses. A lot of us did.”

According to documents obtained by Wednesday Journal, the police union raised issues of “improper investigative techniques and conflict of interest” by both Dhooghe and fellow deputy chief Kendra Sullivan during an August 2006 grievance procedure-one document obtained by Wednesday Journal indicates Dhoogie had allegedly profited from the sale of the house and Sullivan’s husband Jerry had acted as the seller’s attorney.

Following settlement of the grievance, then-Village Administrator Chuck Biondo reportedly forbade Dhooghe from acting as an agent to officers under his command. Around that same time the patrol officer paid Dhoogie $2,500 for brokering the Aug. 16 sale of her home in Aurora for $181,000.

That apparently was not the end of it, however. Wednesday Journal has obtained letters written over the officer’s signature, one sent to Dhooghe and another to current Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez. At issue, according to a letter to Dhooghe dated May 1, 2007, is an additional $700 the officer said he demanded from her. She contends in the letter that Dhooghe demanded the additional payment due to his being no longer able profit from brokering real estate transactions for River Forest officers.

The officer refused, telling Dhooghe she had paid the agreed-upon fee.

“Per the contract that I signed, I believe my payment of $2,500 fulfills my financial obligation to you and Action Team Realty,” she wrote Dhooghe. “No further payments will be made.”

The officer also asked Dhooghe to forward her “all unaltered original signed documents.” Dhooghe had, the officer also told him, earned a good amount through her.

“I estimate that over the past three years I have brought you and Action Team Realty around $10,000,” she wrote.

Following an alleged incident on May 18, the officer filed a formal complaint with Gutierrez on May 21, alleging ongoing harassment by Dhooghe in his capacity as her commanding officer. In her letter she notes that the sale of her townhouse “did not go well.” (Sources say she lost money when the house didn’t sell quickly.) However, she told Gutierrez that was not the basis of her complaint.

The officer told Gutierrez that she had a meeting with Dhooghe in the police department the morning of May 18 to discuss a local ordinance issue at her request. Afterwards, she said, Dhooghe questioned her about her May 1 letter to him.

“He asked me what I had meant by the letter I had sent him,” she wrote. The officer said that when she replied that the letter was “self explanatory,” and that she would not pay him additional money, Dhooghe then asked her what she meant by “unaltered documents.”

The officer said that Dhooghe’s face “got visibly red” when she told him she thought he had altered a signed document.

“I do not feel it is appropriate for him to bring this up at work,” she wrote to Gutierrez, telling him that she continued regretting having used Dhooghe as an agent, not because of how he handled the sale, “but because of how he has reacted at work ever since.”

After filing her complaint, the officer contacted the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 46, which represents River Forest officers, and asked for assistance. FOP 46 Lodge President Michael Thornley, a sergeant on the force, confirmed Monday that a complaint had been filed, but declined to comment further, saying the issue was a personnel matter currently under investigation by the village.

“She wanted us to be aware that the complaint had been filed and asked us to assist her,” said Thornley. “It’s our understanding that an investigation had finally been initiated on Friday, July 13.”

The complaint letter, filed under rules listed in the village’s employee handbook, is distinct from a grievance, which is related to specific alleged violations of the police department’s negotiated collective bargaining agreement.

In her complaint to Gutierrez, the officer said she believed that Dhooghe held her responsible for lost real estate brokerage income.

“I believe that he blames me for not being allowed to do real estate [work] at work anymore and that most of his money was made through the [police] department,” she said.

She told Gutierrez that it was Biondo, not her, who had stopped Dhooghe from conducting real estate business with subordinates at police department.

Village Frank Paris said Monday that he was extremely troubled that the documents had been released.

“I have no comment on it except to say that the press received something that was confidential and supposed to remain in the personnel files,” he said. “I feel somebody should be very ashamed of themselves.”

Gutierrez confirmed Tuesday that he was dealing with a complaint.

“We have a complaint that’s being investigated. It’s a personnel issue,” he said. “It would be irresponsible for me to discuss.”

He added that any decision on whether to discuss alleged problems in the police department publicly or privately is a board matter.

“Ultimately that comes down to a judgment among the board members regarding how they want to proceed,” said Gutierrez.

Three trustees said Tuesday that discussion of specific accusations in officers’ complaints should in fact be discussed by the board in open session.

“They should not be rolled in with the collective bargaining discussion,” said Trustee Russ Nummer. The goal, he said, is an open and honest assessment of how the village has handled the matter.

“I’m not insinuating anyone did anything wrong,” said Nummer. “The fact of the matter is I don’t know what we did.”

Trustee Steve Dudek echoed Nummer’s concerns.

“I believe a lot of the questions are procedural,” he said. “I’ve asked Steve Gutierrez how these matters are addressed. I haven’t seen anything yet.”

Dudek also flatly disagreed with contentions that the issue is solely personnel related.

“You can discuss those [procedural] issues without speaking about specific people,” he said.

“I’m sure there are some elements in there that are personnel,” said Trustee Steve Hoke. “[But] it clearly implicates policy and procedure, and most importantly, general morale in the police department. All three of these things must be explored sooner or later in open session.”

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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