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Administrative fire chief faces disability hearing

Most people file for disability only after an accident or injury on the job has left them without the capacity to perform their prior duties effectively. Receiving disability benefits does not mean that the individual is completely incapacitated professionally, however. A former fire chief in Colorado is now under investigation for fraudulently obtaining his disability income because he continued to work for another fire department while receiving disability benefits.

The Fire and Police Pension Association of Colorado (FFPA), which manages retirement funds for Colorado police officers and fire fighters, is accusing the former chief of maintaining disability income under false pretenses. Reportedly, the former chief was injured on the job and began receiving disability benefits in August 2010. His disability income worked out to be 50 percent of his former salary.

But at the same time he was receiving his disability benefits, the man started working as a volunteer fire chief for the Elk Creek Fire Department. In May 2010, following his resignation from as a first responder from his first job, he accepted an offer from Elk Creek to be the paid fire chief. When the FPPA contacted him and informed him that accepting any position that put him on record as an active fireman would put him in violation of his disability, he immediately resigned to remain in compliance.

However, the Elk Creek Fire Board wanted to keep the man on in an administrative role. It then created a position that he says allowed him to work specifically on the administrative duties associated with the position of fire chief while all fire operations were handled by a separate volunteer chief. The FPPA, however, argues the man of continued working as a first responder following his resignation as fire chief.

The man maintains that his duties with the Elk Creek Fire Department were completely administrative. When asked about documentation that states he responded to various calls, the former chief affirmed that he did respond for administrative reasons including scene photography, but that he performed absolutely no firefighting duties.

The man will soon face an administrative hearing. He was told that while no criminal charges have been filed, he is welcome to have an attorney present. As of now, his disability benefits have been suspended pending the hearing. If he is found guilty of obtaining his disability fraudulently, he will be required to pay back the full amount earned, which is about $44,000.

Source: The Flume, "Pension board seeks repayment from former Elk Creek chief," Mike Potter, 18 June 2011

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