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updated: 8/8/2012 12:10 PM

Judge orders Oak Brook to explain Peterson firing

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  • Former Oak Brook police officer Stephen Peterson, son of murder suspect Drew Peterson, attends a hearing before the village board of police and fire commissioners in February 2011.

       Former Oak Brook police officer Stephen Peterson, son of murder suspect Drew Peterson, attends a hearing before the village board of police and fire commissioners in February 2011.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

  • Oak Brook police officer Andrew Franczak says goodbye to Stephen Peterson after Peterson was dismissed from the force in February 2011.

       Oak Brook police officer Andrew Franczak says goodbye to Stephen Peterson after Peterson was dismissed from the force in February 2011.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

 

A judge has ordered Oak Brook officials to review and explain their firing of former police officer Stephen Peterson, who was dismissed after taking possession of three guns belonging to his infamous father, Drew Peterson.

DuPage County Judge Terence Sheen said in a written opinion Tuesday that the village board of fire and police commissioners "failed to sufficiently explain the basis of its decision" to fire Stephen Peterson. The opinion -- issued as Drew Peterson's murder trial entered its second week in Will County -- sends the employment case back to the village for review.

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"We're pleased because apparently the judge has some questions about whether there was sufficient evidence to explain the termination," said Fraternal Order of Police attorney Tamara Cummings, who represents Stephen Peterson.

The seven-year officer was fired in February 2011 after he admitted taking three of his father's firearms for safekeeping. Drew Peterson, who is charged with the murder of his third wife, was under investigation for the disappearance of his fourth wife at the time.

Village officials contended the younger Peterson demonstrated "extremely poor judgment" by concealing the guns, as well as $236,800 they say he accepted from his father but failed to disclose to investigators. They also found his testimony at his employment hearing was "completely self-serving and lacking any credibility whatsoever."

At issue now is whether the village can explain exactly how Stephen Peterson violated rules within the department. Peterson maintains he broke no laws or rules, but the village is confident it will back up his dismissal.

"The judge did not reopen the case," village attorney Peter Friedman said. "It simply requires an added procedural step that will result in the case going right back up to the judge for a final determination as to whether or not the board's decision should be upheld."

Friedman said the board of fire and police commissioners will decide the next step, which could include "amplifying its order so that it more clearly than it already does identify the actions that the board felt officer Peterson took, and how those actions specifically violated many different rules and regulations that the board felt had been violated."

Tuesday's ruling stemmed from a judicial review Stephen Peterson sought after his firing. Separately, he filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit last month accusing village officials of conspiring to spread false rumors and fire him after his father -- a former Bolingbrook police sergeant -- became embroiled in a high-profile case.

The lawsuit is pending in federal court.

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