(From For the Record, Saturday, May 6, 1995): Jim Lundgren is a Spokane police major crimes sergeant and Mark Wheelwright is an active duty corporal. Identifications of the two officers were incorrect in a Friday article about pension benefits granted to William Gentry.
A fired police officer convicted of rape will be able to receive a full disability pension, the Spokane Police Pension Board decided Thursday.
Board members decided they had no legal right to deny disability status to former Sgt. William Gentry.
The 4-2 vote apparently ends the issue for Gentry, 49, a 19-year veteran of the force.
Gentry was sentenced to four years in prison for second-degree rape after he admitted having a sexual relationship with a retarded deaf woman he had met on the job.
The disability pension will grant Gentry 50 percent of his former salary, $53,400, as long as he is disabled. Under a regular retirement, Gentry would have received 29 percent of his salary.
If Gentry lives to the age of 75, the difference will cost taxpayers about $310,000, according to city records.
In 1994, the Police Pension Board denied the enhanced pension. Gentry then appealed to the state Department of Retirement Systems, which ruled Gentry had “met his burden of proof and should be granted disability retirement.”
Initially bucking the state recommendation, the local board voted 3-2 in April to deny Gentry disability payments.
That vote, however, was taken without a sufficient majority, and when the full board met two weeks later, members ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Gentry.
City Council members Chris Anderson and Orville Barnes, who opposed the higher pension, said they would have no problem finding a fourth vote to deny payment.
But that’s not how it came down Thursday.
After discussion with legal counsel, Barnes said the full board determined that not approving the pension would have meant a lengthy court battle.
“The state board ordered us to do so. You’d feel good by voting against it, but you’re also opening yourself up to a civil-rights lawsuit,” Barnes said.
Barnes was joined by Jim Lundgren, a police detective; Marilyn Montgomery, a city clerk; and Mark Wheelwright, a retired police officer; in approving the higher payments.
Anderson said the state law never anticipated the case of Gentry, whose disability is related to his criminal actions, not police work.
He supports challenging the law in court.
“To me, it’s unfortunate that Mr. Gentry, as a convicted felon, will receive a pension at all and that’s a question that I intend to pursue,” Anderson said.
Gary Gow, a retired police officer, joined Anderson in opposing the higher pension.
In a related vote, the board unanimously deemed the disability non-duty related. That decision means Gentry will have to pay federal income taxes on the money.
ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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