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City aiming to resolve workers’ comp case

September 24, 2012
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - The city is trying to resolve the case of a police officer who has been out of work on a workers' compensation claim for more than two years while collecting his salary of more than $50,000 a year.

The officer has not worked since April 2010. Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said this is the longest an officer has been out since VanDeusen has been in the department.

VanDeusen said he could not reveal the officer's name or the injuries he sustained because of medical confidentiality.

VanDeusen said resolving this issue is a priority.

"Basically, what I am doing now is working toward coming to an end one way or the other as far as whether he is going to come back to work full time as an active member of the police department or if he is going to retire and vacate the spot so that we can fill it with an active working officer," VanDeusen said. "He has made no decision yet on what he will do."

VanDeusen said the officer is eligible for retirement and disability retirement. The Police Department does not offer any light-duty assignments, so the officer's only options are to return to full duty or retire, VanDeusen said.

The officer has an annual salary of $50,232.

"We have a great group of police officers in the city, and I hope that he will be able to return to duty," said Mayor Dayton King. "If he doesn't, we need to fill that position as soon as possible so we are at full strength."

The chief is working with the mayor's office, administration within the department and Labor Attorney Bryan J. Goldberger to resolve the issue. The process in ongoing and there is no estimate for when the issue will be resolved, said VanDeusen.

Goldberger was unavailable for comment.

The city is not paying the officer's salary directly. In workers' comp cases involving municipal workers, the salaries come from a fund supported by premiums paid by the city and other localities.

"The reason this is so important to the Police Department is because we need to have a full staff of active officers," said VanDeusen. "The more officers we have on the street, the better we can serve the public."

The Police Department is budgeted for 30 officers on payroll. However, the department has only 28 positions filled because of the officer out on workers' compensation and the retirement of Officer Tracy Green, who had been with the department for 20 years.

The department hired Michael Shang to fill Green's job, said VanDeusen. He said Shang already attended the police academy, but he still has to complete a six- to eight-week field training program.

Shang started with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office as a corrections officer in 2003, became a part-time deputy in 2007 and full-time deputy in 2008. He was named an investigator in 2011 before joining the Gloversville Police Department.



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