Officials are taking a new look at the case of a city police officer who has not worked for several years while collecting his full salary of more than $50,000 a year through a workers’ compensation claim.
Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said he could not reveal the name of the officer, citing medical confidentiality issues, but said he has made resolving the issue one of his top priorities since becoming chief earlier this year.
“Being one body down is a big thing, as far as I am concerned,” he said. “We are working to get him back to work or get him cleared from the roster and move on. If I can have every member of this department at full staff and on the street, that is a win-win for the community.”
The officer is eligible for both normal retirement and disability retirement, VanDeusen said. His annual salary is $50,232.
Mayor Dayton King said the police department does not offer light-duty assignments, and as such, the officer’s options are limited to full duty or retirement.
“We want to make sure all officers who work for the department are fit for the job, and we want to make sure people are here and doing the job,” he said. “There may be a person here that fits that category, and we will work with that person to get him back to work or assist him with retirement. We do not want to force someone’s hand.”
The officer’s salary and medical bills are paid through a self-insured workers’ compensation fund administered by Fulton County. All municipalities in the county are members of the fund, said Jon Stead, administrative officer for the county Board of Supervisors.
Gloversville pays a premium to the fund based on a formula that considers the city’s total assessed property value and its actual experience with workers’ compensation claims over a five-year period.
A Board of Supervisors committee will report back to that board Monday on the workers’ compensation fund. The report will show the annual premiums each municipality will have to pay in 2013.
The five-year look back starts at 2011, Stead said. Whether Gloversville has to pay an increased premium as a result of the unnamed officer’s claim is still to be seen.
Stead said police officers and firefighters can receive full salary through the fund under section 207-c of state law, provided they were injured in the line of duty.
The disabled officer is one of 30 members on the police department payroll. VanDeusen said if the officer retires, he would like to fill the position.
Currently, the department has one vacancy, the result of VanDeusen’s promotion to chief and the domino effect of resulting promotions. VanDeusen said he will fill that vacancy once line officers now serving temporarily take a civil service exam and are appointed.
The department had another vacancy, but it was filled Sunday. That opening occurred with the retirement Friday of patrol Officer Tracy Green. Green, 41, had been with the department 20 years.
“He was a good officer and did his job to the best of his ability every day,” VanDeusen said. “He wants to explore the next aspect of his life.”
The department hired Michael Shang for Green’s job, which VanDeusen called a lateral promotion. Shang was an investigator with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. He started there as a corrections officer in 2003, because a part-time deputy in 2007 and a full-time deputy in 2008. He was named an investigator in 2011.
Shang has already been through the police academy, but will have to complete a six- to eight-week field training program with city police before he can operate on his own, VanDeusen said. He said he expects Shang to take to the job quickly and efficiently.
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