Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Jim Robey’s Vision of Quality of Life?

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, October 12, 2006

Do you remember Pieter Lucas?  The Baltimore Sun reminded us about this Auxilary Police Officer yesterday.

Just in case you don’t remember.

On November 23, 2005 [Thanksgiving Day], Officer Lucas was directing traffic around an accident while acting in his capacity as an auxiliary police officer.  Officer Lucas was injured when he was struck by a vehicle.  According to Officer Lucas, he “was standing in the roadway directing traffic when a speeding vehicle struck me and pinned me between two vehicles.” [Officer Lucas’ workers’ compensation claim form dated 1/25/2006].  He was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center where his left leg was amputated below the knee.

In a Baltimore Sun article dated 12/7/2005, it was brought out that Howard County may not have had adequate insurance on its auxiliary police force.  Specifically, it was noted that Officer Lucas did not have coverage for the medical equipment he needed for his home.  Councilman Charles Feaga was quoted as stating, “I’m shocked and surprised that county didn’t carry a heavier policy on the volunteers.  I’m worried that it will not be enough for the rehabilitation and work doctors will have to do on the youngster.”

In the same article, Raquel Sanudo, Howard County’s Chief Administrative Officer, stated, “If the administration or I personally had known that the Lucas family was in need of a hospital bed and wheelchair, arrangements would have been made immediately.  Most important, we want to make sure Mr. Lucas’ medical problems are taken care of.”

Despite the assurances that the County would make sure that Officer Lucas was “taken care of”, after filing his workers’ compensation claim in January, 2006, Howard County disputed Officer Lucas’ request for benefits.  Howard County filed “contesting issues” questioning whether Officer Lucas was a “covered employee”?  A hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Commission was held on April 11, 2006.

At the hearing, the attorney representing Howard County stated “the actual issue is whether or not Mr. Lucas, based upon his status as an auxiliary police officer, was a covered employee under the Act.” [Transcript, Page 4].  The attorney further stated in arguing that Officer Lucas should not receive workers’ compensation benefits “…if Howard County wanted to provide Workers’ Compensation coverage to their auxiliary police officers, they would have provided such by their legislature dealing with the State,…” [Transcript, Page 22].  The attorney closed his remarks at the hearing by stating,  “…Howard County Government, submits that Mr. Lucas is not a covered employee because of his status as an auxiliary police officer.” [Transcript, Page 23].

Fortunately, the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner rejected Howard County’s argument and held that Officer Lucas was a covered employee.  Consequently, he will receive workers’ compensation benefits.  Unfortunately, due to Howard County’s decision to deny Officer Lucas’ claim, he had to hire an attorney and attend a hearing to ensure that he received the benefits that were owed to him.

Mr. Lucas’ family is pursuing claims against the driver’s insurance company.  But that could take years.  He has immediate needs right after the accident, now and in the future.  He and is family incurred out of pocket expenses immediately after the accident.  The auto insurance is not meant to cover immediate medical needs.

Sanudo, however, said that the county had an obligation to follow the law, no matter how “heart-wrenching” Lucas’ circumstances. She said that the county could have appealed the commission’s decision, but did not.

The County didn’t have to appeal his claim in the first place.

“You have to look first at the law,” Sanudo said. “Is he or is he not entitled to this benefit, and then you follow the law. The law does not provide for coverage. … If it did, Mr. Kittleman would not have to introduce this legislation.”

Sorry Ms. Sanudo, the Workers Compensation Commission said their was no basis in law for Howard County’s position.  Senator Kittleman’s legislation is meant to ensure that in the future the County follows the law rather than challenge an injured auxilary police officer’s worker compensation claim.

This is just unbelievable that the County would do this to any person in this situation.  The guy lost his leg in the line of duty on Thanksgiving day.  What were you doing on Thanksgiving day while Mr. Lucas’ leg was being surgically removed?  I remember the day clearly.  We hosted my family in Ellicott City.  Like all Thanksgivings it was a warm and wonderful reunion.   While most of us sat around and enjoyed a very large meal Thanking God for our blessings Mr. Lucas lay upon a surgery table when he should have been home with his family.  Instead he went out to work on behalf of the rest of us.

Mr. Lucas is no “coward”.

What bothers me is that Jim Robey is not mentioned at all.  Who does Ms. Sanudo report to?  I mean directly.  She reports directly to County Executive Jim Robey.  If Robey didn’t know that this is the way the County was pursuing Mr. Lucas then shame on him for not getting involved and standing up for Mr. Lucas.  However, with something as hot as this I suspect Mr. Robey was aware of how the County was treating Mr. Lucas.

The Howard County Times today quoted Robey’s campaign manager, Matthew Patton, regarding Robey’s consistent tax hikes saying they were meant to ensure that county residents continued to receive the government services thy demand.  I guess they didn’t mean Mr. Lucas.

Is this the quality of life Mr. Robey (and his protege Ken Ulman) envision for Howard County?

So much for the mean Republicans who only care about themselves.

UPDATE:  Senator Kittleman read this post this morning and fowarded this letter to the editor.  If you know anything about Allan Kittleman he is one of the most stand up people you will have the pleasure to know.  It is great the he, Miller, and Bates stood up for this guy.

Dear Editor,

In the Howard Sun article [Plan to cover police auxiliary – 10/11/2006] members of the Robey administration try to explain why County Executive Robey denied Officer Pieter Lucas’ claim for workers’ compensation benefits after he lost his left leg in the line of duty as an auxiliary police officer.  The simple truth is that Mr. Robey could have accepted Officer Lucas’ claim.  It was completely within his discretion.  Nothing in the law prevented him from doing so.  Instead, Mr. Robey deliberately chose to deny Officer Lucas’ claim. As a result of Mr. Robey’s decision, Officer Lucas was forced to hire an attorney and go to court to get the benefits that he rightly deserved.  Fortunately, the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner rejected Mr. Robey’s argument and awarded benefits to Officer Lucas.

The legislation drafted by me and Delegates Bates and Miller is needed due to Mr. Robey’s poor judgment.  Had Mr. Robey done the right thing and accepted Officer Lucas’ claim, legislation would not be necessary.  However, since Mr. Robey did everything in his power to stop Officer Lucas from receiving workers’ compensation benefits, it is important that this legislation be enacted to prevent such a travesty from ever happening again.

Allan Kittleman
State Senator, District 9

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30 Responses to “Jim Robey’s Vision of Quality of Life?”

  1. Numbersgirl said

    Just one factual correction: this accident occurred the day before Thanksgiving. It was Wednesday night.

  2. Freemarket said

    Where can one find a draft copy of the legislation? I can’t find anything about it on the General Assembly website.

  3. hocomd said

    This legislation will be filed with the Howard County Delegation. A public hearing is scheduled for all local legislation on January 11, 2007. If it is adopted by the State Delegation, it will go to the full General Assembly for consideration in the 2007 Session

  4. Ralph said

    You mean to tell me with back to back budget surpluses, Jim Robey couldn’t find the money to help this kid? What a jerk!

  5. Treehugger said

    Ifind it interesting that the Robey administration found 75thousand to settle the former police Chief’s sexual harassment suit but not Mr. Lucas.

  6. hocomd said

    Treehugger, excellent point.

  7. Treehugger said

    I just wanted to thank Senator Kittleman and Delagate Miller for sponsoring this Bill.As a parent with a child with a disablity no one can understand how your needs and life changes.I thought Govenment is to help the ones in need not make a public safety officer fight for what he or she deserves.

  8. Freemarket said

    I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Pieter Lucas about two weeks prior to the accident at a Volunteer Fire Department awards banquet, where he received numerous plaques and certificates in recognition of his outstanding work and countless hours of service as a firefighter/EMT. I think Robey should be run out of town for not helping this young man out, which he apparently had the power to do.

    No one has seen the legislation put forth by Kittleman, Bates, and Miller, but assuming it fixes a problem that exists in providing for the folks that protect us, it is welcome. I am glad to see that Bates and Miller are willing to provide some legal protections to emergency personnel, because they certainly have no interest in doing that for homosexuals who want the legal protections of civil unions.

  9. Jim Adams said

    Freemarket, I agree Bates and Miller show no interest in providing legal protections in civil unions for homosexuals. Reminds me of when skin color was used as a reason to not protect citizens.

    As a straight man I would not want legal protections of civil unions denied, and so why should this happen to a gay couple. Closed minds, closed hearts I quess.

  10. Freemarket said

    Just for the record, I am straight also, but not narrow minded like Bates and Miller.

  11. Hayduke said

    Jim, the more I read from you on these blogs, the more I think District 5 lost out on having great representation on the council. Though I imagine we disagree on a number of philosophical/idealogical points, you consitently show the thoughtfulness and open-mindedness sorely lacking among our political representatives. Even if you aren’t serving in an official role, your contributions to our community dialogue are invaluable.

  12. observer said

    Jim and Hayduke, you are both truly delusional. For someone who viciously attacked Greg Fox for using smear campaign tactics, which is not necessarily even true, you have turned to personal attacks and the politics of villification. Can’t win on the issues, go after the person. So much for your epiphany Hayduke, it was short lived.

  13. Hayduke said

    Observer, thanks for you assessment, but what do you think I’m trying to do here? I haven’t said squat about District 5 or Fox or Dunn. I’m certainly not advocating for Jim or against Fox. I was simply trying to say that I think he generally displays a high level of thoughtfulness when discussing issues. Fox could be the same way, for all I know.

    As for this line “Can’t win on the issues, go after the person.” Have you seen the number of posts dedicated to Ken Ulman’s supposed resume discrepencies? Where’s the outrage about that, especially now that it all seems to be just groupthink gone wrong? What about the commenter who tried to bring up some tenuous claim about Ulman getting in trouble for underage drinking in high school? That’s about as low as you can get with “personal attacks and the politics of villification.”

  14. Jim Adams said

    Thanks for the kind words Hayduke, but you may see soon were I have to go into the pits, in an effort to make ideals flourish.

  15. observer said

    Hayduke, I haven’t followed the resume story that much but, it seems like if there were any facts to contradict the story about Ken’s exaggerrations they would have surfaced by now. You and your blog would be better served if you did not try to do the impossible and defend the indefensible, meaning Ken Ulman’s record. While even Mr. Keelan’s remarks are somewhat biased, he generally has most of his facts correct. You more or less are emotionally involved somehow with Ken and cannot diffentiate facts from spin most of the time. I don’t mean this to be critical of you as a person, I enjoy your commentary, just lose the spin. My sarcasm in previous remarks, is intended to point out your efforts to spin and not seriously engage the issues. Lastly your pal Ken has doomed Merriwether Post. After the charrette plan is killed as it ought to be for the sake of Columbia, Ken’s back room deal (the charrette) to buy GGP off with a billion or more dollars worth of development rights, is finished, and GGP will fall back on their origianl plan to develop something there and possibly shut it down. The mixed use office and retail plan for the crescent property was the best chance MP had of surviving. If MP dies, I’ll miss it as much as you.

  16. Numbersgirl said

    To Observer: re: “if there were any facts to contradict the story about Ken’s exaggerations, they would have surfaced by now”

    Please see the post on this blog, posted yesterday, titled “Governor’s Director, Board of Public Works”

    Facts surfaced. Debate over.

  17. Allan Kittleman said

    In response to the question about the legislation proposed by me and Delegates Bates and Miller, here is the bill’s language. In the Labor & Employment Article, Section 9-220 (a) a new provision known as (a)(2) would read as follows: “Each auxiliary police officer for Howard County is a covered employee while on duty as defined in the Howard County Police Department’s General Orders.” This provision is similar to a provision that was added previously for auxiliary police officers in Baltimore County.

    It is important to note that this legislation simply takes away Howard County’s discretion in denying a workers’ compensation claim by an auxiliary police officer on the basis that the officer was not an “employee” of Howard County. That was the only issue raised by Howard County when they denied Officer Pieter Lucas’ claim.

    It is just as important to understand that the current law did not prohibit Howard County from accepting Officer Lucas’ claim. The current law simply gave Howard County an excuse for contesting the claim. The comment in the Baltimore Sun article that “the county had an obligation to follow the law, no matter how ‘heartwrenching’ Lucas’ circumstances” is totally false.

    Having practice workers’ compensation law for over 15 years, I can state with certainly that there is not any law that requires an employer to contest a workers’ compensation claim. Howard County could have, and should have, simply accepted Officer Lucas’ claim. Over 90% of all workers’ compensation claims are accepted by the employer.

    I am hopeful that the proposed legislation will be enacted in order to prevent what happened to Officer Lucas from happening to any other auxiliary police officer.

  18. Allan Kittleman said

    There is a typo in my previous response. The first sentence in the 4th paragraph should have read:

    Having PRACTICED worker’s compensation law for over 15 years, I can state with certainly that there is not any law that requires an employer to contest a workers’ compensation claim.

    Sorry for the error.

  19. Allan Kittleman said

    I just noticed the other typo – in the same sentence it should read CERTAINTY not certainly.

    Sorry.

  20. hocomd said

    I think the facts are that Ken Ulman did puff up his resume. His predecessor was Director and Ken wasn’t. The documents I posted show that.

    Also, the way Ken writes it on his website is misleading.

    He was not “the Director of the Board of Public Works” as he states and misleads and has repeatedly stated. He was the Governor’s Liaison, Board of Public Works. Big difference.

  21. Freemarket said

    The Sun article linked in this post makes it sound as if Raquel Sanudo has decision making authority regarding the acceptance or denial of Workers Compensation claims for the County. Looking at an organizational chart for Howard County Government executive branch, Mrs. Sanudo is in charge of administrative things like Purchasing, Human Rights, Human Resources, etc. She appears to have nothing to do with legal actions that the County may undertake. Therefore, I think Mrs. Sanudo was an inappropriate authority for the reporter to interview for the Sun article. Shouldn’t someone from the Office of Law been interviewed for this? It seems like that office would make legal decisions. I bring this up because I think it may be inappropriate to demonize Robey for challenging the Worker’s Compensation claim. He may have had no say in the matter.

    Check out the org chart:
    http://www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/36loc/how/pdf/how.pdf

  22. hocomd said

    Freemarket, I thought of that too. In the end they all work for the County Executive. He had the final word.

  23. Freemarket said

    I see your point, but Barbara Cook, who heads the Office of Law, is appointed by Robey, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she is in his pocket. I started thinking about this because I can’t image why Robey would deny a Worker’s Compensation claim under these circumstances. That would be political suicide, not to mention just plain nasty. I am beginning to suspect that Allan Kittleman may have taken advantage of this situation for political gain by misrepresenting Robey’s involvement in the denial of the claim.

  24. Allan Kittleman said

    As I have stated earlier, I spent approximately 15 years practicing workers’ compensation law in Maryland. I have a very good understanding of the law and how claims are handled. Most employers have workers’ compensation insurance. When someone is injured on the job, the insurance company generally has the final say on whether a claim is accepted or denied. Some larger employers are self-insured. They have risk management offices that oversee the handling of workers’ compensation claims. Since an insurance company is not involved, the self-insured employer has the final say on whether a claim is accepted or denied.

    Howard County is self-insured for workers’ compensation purposes. Although they have a risk management office, their workers’ compensation claims are adjusted by an outside company. Neither Barbara Cook, nor anyone in the Office of Law, represents Howard County with regard to workers’ compensation claims. A private law firm represents Howard County in these claims. Consequently, Barbara Cook would not have been the person to interview on this issue.

    In December 2005, there was great concern over Officer Lucas’ injury. Councilman Feaga and others were concerned that Howard County did not have sufficient insurance to cover Officer Lucas’ medical expenses. Since this matter was so controversial, there is no question that Robey and his administration knew in early 2006 that Officer Lucas had filed a workers’compensation claim. This is confirmed by Ms. Sanudo’s comments in the Baltimore Sun article. They clearly discussed this issue and they decided that despite the “heartwenching” circumstances, they had an “obligation” to deny the claim. An obligation to deny the claim! All they had to do is tell the outside company that they wanted to accept the claim. Instead, they made a conscious decision to allow the outside company to continue to contest Officer Lucas’ claim. As a result of this decision, Officer Lucas was forced to hire an attorney and fight the County in court. Therefore, County Executive Robey and others in his administration are clearly responsible for this travesty.

  25. Freemarket said

    Thanks to Allan Kittleman for the clarifying comments. If I understand correctly, the outside company is the party that challenged the workers’ compensation claim. Thus, the blame rests on who, at the County, had the authority to contact the outside company and tell them to back off of any challenge to this claim. When Kittleman says “they made a conscious decision to allow the outside company to continue to contest Officer Lucas’ claim”, who is he referring to that made that conscious decision? Was it Robey? Regardless of who made that decision, does Robey have the authority to contact the outside company himself and have them back off?

    In Kittleman’s letter to the editor, he states “Mr. Robey did everything in his power to stop Officer Lucas from receiving workers’ compensation benefits”. It sounds to me like that is a gross misstatement of the facts. At best, Robey was not proactive enough regarding the outside company. It is also worth noting that the County did not appeal the decision to grant benefits to the injured Officer. My point is that Kittleman’s letter makes it sound like Robey was out to get this young man, and that is not the case.

  26. timactual said

    It seems a bit odd to me that, although most of the commenters here seem to interested and involved in county government, there seems to be some confusion here about who makes decisions and bears responsibility for the actions of the county government. To a relatively ignorant outsider like me, it seems prety clear; “The buck stops here”, as Harry Truman once said. It seems to me that the person who campaigns and promises to take charge and make decisions as a county EXECUTIVE bears the responsibility for the actions of the county government he or she fought to run. That, it seems to me, is why they call it a county executive rather than a county figurehead.

  27. Freemarket said

    Timactual- there is an orderly process that must be followed. Running the government as if procedures are irrelevant is what brought us comp lite.

    Robey’s own family would disown him if he was half as eager to deny workers’ comp benefits as Kittleman states.

  28. hocomd said

    Freemarket, my interpetation of the letter was that Robey’s administration choose to focus on the needs of the County Government, a poor interpretation of the law, a recommendation from the management company and less focus on the needs of a young man who was seriously injured in the line of duty.

    The outside company didn’t challenge Lucas’ claim. The County did.

  29. Numbersgirl said

    I don’t believe Robey should be held accountable individually. There’s a system of checks and balances in government, and not all of the government’s decisions are left to its executive branch. Robey, and any other individual in a similar position, appoints people he or she believes has the moral compass and professional integrity it takes to do a job well. After that, he or she has very little control over the actions of that party. That’s the way it should be. And that seems to be what happened here.

    And, if one says that Robey deserves the blame for fighting the WCC claim, then he also deserves the credit when the county decided not to appeal, correct?

  30. hocomd said

    Correct! However, it should not have gone that far in the first place.

    I dont’ really care about Robey. I am just glad Pieter Lucas got what he deserved and that legislation is being introduced to prevent it from happening again.

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