Jim Robey’s Vision of Quality of Life?
Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, October 12, 2006
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.
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.
State Senator, District 9