MoCo Police Officers Pack Hearing on Disability Retirement
Montgomery County police officers in uniform packed the council chamber tonight to oppose legislation that would overhaul the county disability retirement system under scrutiny by the inspector general's office and federal law enforcement officials.
Police and other union leaders criticized council members during the public hearing for trying to redesign the system through legislation instead of negotiating changes through collective bargaining.
"We should not have to call our members off their beats to fight in the political arena for their families' financial security in the event of an injury," said Marc Zifcak, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 35, to thunderous applause in the standing room only hearing room in Rockville. "This is an attempt to erode employee benefits."
The legislation, sponsored by Council President Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) and Council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large), would change the way applications for disability retirement are reviewed and create a two-tier level of benefits depending on the severity of an injury.
Their efforts were praised by two occupational medical experts and a representative from the Montgomery County Taxpayers League for trying to bring greater accountability and oversight to the system.
But the police union's argument appeared to gain traction with at least three of the seven council members at the hearing. Council members Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty), Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) and Marc Elrich (D-At Large) said legislation should not preempt ongoing negotiations over the system between the union and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).
Elrich faulted Leggett's administration and previous county executives for not using their existing power to reexamine the physical condition of disabled retirees in the years after they begin to collect the tax-free benefit.
"If we'd just do what we were supposed to be doing, we'd be in pretty good shape," Elrich said.
January 15, 2009; 8:56 PM ET
Categories: Ann Marimow
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