ANDERSON — A federal lawsuit against the city ended Thursday with a terminated police officer being reinstated at the Board of Public Safety meeting.
Steve Ohlheiser, a 15-year veteran of the Anderson Police Department and a deputy prosecutor for the past three years, was reinstated to the department, effective immediately, as part of the settlement. Bill Byer, assistant city attorney, cited major financial exposure for the city if it continued to fight the case against Ohlheiser, and recommended he be given his job back.
In a quorum decision, board members William Watson and Bruce Dunham agreed to the settlement.
Ohlheiser, who admits that he suffered from an addiction to prescription pills and pleaded guilty to an operating while intoxicated charge in a 2008 case, said he was happy with the settlement.
Ohlheiser said his issues with substance abuse are in the past and he believes the department has no need for concern going forward. One of the reasons Ohlheiser wanted to return to the department was to qualify for his pension and close his career the way he started it.
"I want to have a good ending to a good career," Ohlheiser said after being reinstated.
Ohlheiser filed the federal lawsuit with Indiana's Southern District in November. In the complaint, Ohlheiser claimed that the previous mayoral administration under Kris Ockomon and former Chief of Police Darron Sparks unfairly singled him out and harassed him.
Sparks suspended and demoted Ohlheiser for the OWI incident, which happened when Ohlheiser was driving home from a music concert in 2008. The lawsuit alleges the treatment of Ohlheiser was politically motivated and aggravated his health and substance abuse problems, which stemmed from a back injury suffered in 2004. Ultimately, Ohlheiser resigned under duress in 2010.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said he's known Ohlheiser a long time and wouldn't have given him a job or recommended his reinstatement if he thought Ohlheiser still had a problem.