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K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
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K. Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific Research Institute and has been widely published on topics including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform, and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]

When the Chips are Down
Compassionate Sacramento…

[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 9/17/04

According to an investigation by the Sacramento Bee, of the 65 high-ranking CHP officers who have retired since 2000, 55 pursued workers’ compensation settlements during the two years before they retired. The claimed injuries, “chief’s disease” as it is known within the force, are the rule rather than the exception. They lead to settlements and medical pensions far beyond the already lucrative benefits of the CHP, where officers can retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their pay.

For example, Deputy Commissioner Ed Gomez, a 33-year CHP veteran, claimed to be disabled by workplace stress and physical ailments. In 2000, the 57-year-old was awarded a $39,000 settlement, medical care for life for his injuries, and a state industrial disability pension of $106,968 a year, half of it free of taxes. Then two years later the federal government hired Gomez for the high-stress job of directing security at San Francisco airport.

CHP Deputy Chief Kevin Mince sought a workers’ compensation settlement as a result of stress from dealing with his supervisor. He was found to be 23-percent disabled as a result of headaches, shingles, chest pains, and “injuries to his psyche.” He took an industrial disability retirement of $109,259, half of it exempt from taxes. He also moved to Hawaii where he functions well enough to teach scuba diving.

The Bee's investigation also noted that Larry Hollingsworth, a CHP captain, was found to be 61-percent disabled from knee injuries, ulcers, high blood pressure, and hearing loss. He took a medical pension from the CHP but is still apparently sound enough to become assistant sheriff of Yolo County.

CHP boss D.O. “Spike” Helmick, who retires this week, has decried this sort of thing and has opposed increased safety pensions for other state employees. But it turns out that Helmick has opted to have a go himself. In the past three years, according to the Bee's investigation, Helmick made five injury claims, including one for a fall from his office chair in 2000. Perhaps the design was faulty, or maybe it was set too high. The doctor would know.

“The system is so lucrative,” the suddenly accident-prone Helmick told reporters in June, “I'm afraid people are going to take advantage even if they're 100 percent ethical.”

Some legislators have called for policing the police, whose reputation has been besmirched by the retirement scam. The real problem is the lucrative system, which still needs to be fixed. Workers’ compensation was created to help those legitimately injured on the job, not to bankroll luxury retirement on dubious grounds.

Assistant CHP chief Denise Daeley, 42, was hurt in a private car returning from a weekend in Las Vegas. The trip was not work authorized but she claimed to have been recruiting for the force in Las Vegas. Daeley got an annual $57,396, half her salary, tax free, and decamped for Hawaii.

California’s government establishment finds it fatuously easy to give away other people’s money, the current definition of “compassion.” The governor needs to weigh in on “chief’s disease.” And Californians need to monitor the growing disparities between those employed by the state and those who aren’t. CRO

copyright 2004 Pacific Research Institute




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