Police Chief Michael Kehoe has reversed an earlier position and decided against pursuing job termination against Police Officer Thomas Bean, a town police officer who responded to the 12/14 mass shooting incident at Sandy Hook School and subsequently has been off work since then due to a medical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In a brief December 5 letter to Police Commission Chairman Paul Mangiafico, Chief Kehoe wrote that he is withdrawing his previous recommendation that Officer Bean be terminated. In the letter, the police chief did not explain his reason for withdrawing the termination recommendation.
Police Commission members endorsed the police chief’s letter at a December 17 session, Mr Mangiafico said.
Neither Mr Mangiafico nor Chief Kehoe would comment on the Bean issue this week. Town officials have termed the topic a “personnel matter” that is protected from public disclosure under the terms of the state Freedom of Information Act.
Because the chief’s job termination recommendation has been withdrawn, the Police Commission will not hold a termination hearing against Officer Bean.
Officer Bean has said that the intensity of the 12/14 shooting incident had such an emotional effect on him that he no longer would be able to function as a police officer. Officer Bean, 38, joined the police department in November 2000.
Officer Bean currently is receiving half-pay from the town while on long-term disability leave.
In an August letter to Officer Bean, Police Chief Michael Kehoe had written, in part, that under the terms of the police department’s rules and regulations, termination of Officer Bean’s employment was warranted. That job termination plan had stemmed from the town’s receipt of a May letter from Officer Bean’s physician that stated that he is “permanently and completed disabled from [the] duties of a police officer,” Chief Kehoe wrote.
The chief noted that Officer Bean had attended a July session at which he was represented by the police union’s lawyer and a by union officer. At that time, Officer Bean stated that he did not anticipate any change in his medical status or work status.
In that August letter, the police chief added that Officer Bean had failed to respond to several job severance options proposed by the town: retirement, disability retirement, or resignation.
The Newtown Police Union contends that under the terms of its labor contract with the town, if an officer finds himself in a situation such as Officer Bean’s, the person is eligible to receive 50 percent of his pay until their normal retirement date. In Officer Bean’s case, such retirement would come in November 2025.
The town’s current insurance coverage, however, does not provide for such an extended period of a police officer receiving half pay, only allowing such payment to run for two years, according to Newtown Police Union President Scott Ruszczyk.
Statement From Ofc Bean
In a December 18 statement, Officer Bean said, “The town government is doing everything they can to make this more difficult on me and my family simply because they did not get the proper long-term [disability] insurance policy that is in line with our union contract.”
“The union contract says that I am supposed to receive 50 percent of my salary until my normal retirement date. The town only has a two-year [disability] policy. The town attorney recently told the union that the town will not negotiate with us and will not pay beyond the two years. The town attorney stated that the union or myself would have to take them to court,” Mr Bean said.
“The union cannot file a grievance until I start to lose money, so we have to wait the two years because the town also has denied us on a request to file [a grievance] now, so that this issue can resolved before my family is in financial ruin,” Officer Bean added.
“The chief has also denied my request for secondary employment. He also recently withdrew his recommendation for my termination, but that news came at the same time the town attorney told us that they are not going to do anything to resolve this issue,” Officer Bean said.
“They are trying to force me to resign or retire with the acceptance of their failure to provide the appropriate [disability] insurance because they know I will need to get money somehow. Or they hope I get a job and then have a reason to terminate me, which would void me of my benefits,” he added.
“Coming [in] late spring/summer of 2014, I will no longer be receiving assistance from the Sandy Hook Assistance Fund, which is when the financial failure of my family will begin,” he said.
“In the late spring/summer of 2015, I will have no income…I need to start moving on and working towards a new career,” he said.
“I do not have the training or experience to make what I was making as a police officer, so new on-the-job experience is what I am going to need, and that is going to need to start before [the town stops] paying me in two years,” he said.
“The town agreed with the union that no one would suffer financially from [12/14], but they lied because they are hell bent on ruining my life through financial burdens, not allowing me the right to work elsewhere, and the continuous re-traumatization of myself and my family, which looks like it will continue for years to come, because the town government was cheap on insurance and [doesn’t] care about their people or employees,” he said.