The Spokane Police Pension Board once again has refused to grant a disability pension to a fired police officer convicted of second-degree rape. The board’s decision could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The board reaffirmed by a 3-2 vote Thursday its earlier decision to deny former Sgt. William Gentry his taxpayer-financed pension.
“I think the board had a problem with doing anything to benefit an individual who so violated the public trust,” said Councilman Chris Anderson, the board’s chairman.
Gentry is asking for a disability retirement. The difference between a regular retirement and a disability retirement is about $11,500 a year. If Gentry lives to age 75 and remains on disability, he would get about $310,000 more with the disability pension, not counting costof-living adjustments.
Last May, the board unanimously voted against Gentry’s request he be granted a permanent disability. He appealed the decision to the state Department of Retirement Systems.
Leah Wilson, retirement administrator, last month sent the decision back to the board for further consideration, saying its “order to deny Mr. Gentry disability retirement is not supported by the medical and other evidence provided.”
In fact, Wilson said in her written decision, Gentry “met his burden of proof.., and should be granted disability retirement.”
The 49-year-old former police officer was sentenced in October to four years in prison for second-degree rape after he admitted having a sexual relationship with a retarded, deaf woman he met on the job.
Gentry is not in custody while awaiting an appeal of that criminal charge.
Rob Cossey, Gentry’s attorney, said his client’s disability involves stress and severe depression caused by work and family problems.
“The fact is, they don’t want to give him his retirement,” Cossey said. “The question is, ‘Is he capable of performing his function as a police sergeant?”’
Councilman Orville Barnes, a board member, said there is “serious question as to whether he’s disabled.”
The board ruled in April 1994 that Gentry was “not mentally disabled from further performance of duty,” city records show.
“In my opinion, if he is disabled, it’s from the shame and remorse he no doubt is feeling as a result of his actions,” Anderson said.
If granted a disability retirement, Gentry would get 50 percent of his former salary, which was $53,400 a year, as long as he is disabled. If the disability is deemed duty-related, the benefits wouldn’t be taxed by the federal government.
Under a regular retirement, Gentry would be eligible for about 29 percent of his former pay - 1.5 percent a year for each of the 19 years he served in the department. He can’t collect those benefits until age 50.
Only five of the seven-member board attended Thursday’s meeting, with three members voting to deny the pension. Because board actions require four votes, its decision may be reconsidered at a special meeting next week.
Anderson and Barnes agreed that a fourth vote would be easy to come by.
“We won’t have any trouble getting a fourth vote,” Anderson said.
Gentry could appeal the decision back to the state, which could again remand the decision, overturn the decision or send it to an administrative judge for review.
Retirement administrator Wilson refused to comment on the case, saying she hadn’t seen the board’s decision.
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