Former Belleville cop sues over bad reference

Ann Knef Jun. 22, 2007, 4:00am

A former Belleville police officer filed suit against St. Clair County and State's Attorney Robert Haida claiming he cannot find employment with other area police departments because of a bad job reference.

Bruce Horstmann filed suit in federal court June 18 seeking in excess of $1 million.

He claims that after he resigned from the Belleville Police Department, he was hired by the Alorton Police Department.

"When defendant Haida learned of this, he wrote to the then Chief of Police of the Alorton police department, Chief Leon Hughes, by letter dated June 20, 2005," the complaint states. "According to that letter, (Haida wrote), 'My office will not pursue the prosecution of any case which is based solely upon the testimony of Officer Bruce Horstmann or is otherwise based in substantial part on the testimony of Officer Horstmann.'"

According to Horstmann, Haida wrote a similar letter to the East St. Louis police chief in January of this year while seeking full-time employment.

He also sought employment with departments in St. Louis, Alton, Fairview Heights and Maryville, the complaint states.

"Though he was fully qualified and though he was experienced as a police officer, plaintiff failed to obtain employment with any of these police departments," the complaint states. "When plaintiff attempted to find out why he was denied employment with each of those police departments, that information was denied him."

Horstmann is represented by Melroy B. Hutnick of Belleville.

"The decision by defendant Haida to pursue and attack plaintiff and prevent plaintiff from gaining employment and/or retaining employment as a police officer was a personal attack on plaintiff having nothing to do with any prosecutorial function and having no tie or connection to the judicial process," the complaint states. "Plaintiff had never been convicted of a felony. Plaintiff had never been convicted of a misdemeanor. No criminal case was ever dismissed because of plaintiff. No motion to suppress was ever sustained because of plaintiff. No investigation in any criminal case failed because of plaintiff."

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