Disability pension granted to Montgomery police sergeant accused of theft

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 19, 2010

A Montgomery County police sergeant facing allegations that she stole more than $10,000 was granted a disability retirement pension this month, adding to questions about a program designed to compensate officers who suffer disabling injuries on the job.

Jacqueline Davey, a 17-year department veteran, was a patrol supervisor when she was suspended in December because of a theft investigation, county officials said. A medical panel later ruled she could no longer perform all of the duties of an officer, officials said.

"These are the kind of cases that could potentially undermine the credibility of the whole system," said County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). "Obviously the panel made the decision. They awarded it."

Davey, 39, had not reached the normal retirement age. The disability package will pay her about 67 percent of her salary, tax free, county officials said. She faces trial in September on charges that she billed the county for hours she did not work.

She could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Paul Stein, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Montgomery officials, citing confidentiality laws, would not say what Davey's injuries are.

Davey's retirement pension comes nearly two years after Leggett announced he was seeking to reform the program, which for years has awarded disability benefits at a higher rate than neighboring counties.

Pushing for reform

Montgomery allows active-duty officers to receive disability pensions based on injuries originally suffered years earlier. The county does not distinguish among types of job-related disabilities, meaning that officers with a disabled trigger finger can receive the same benefits as an officer who becomes paralyzed. Until recently, county managers didn't bring recipients in for regular physicals to see whether they still qualified.

The disability program is administered by the county's central personnel office, outside of the police department. Leggett's top aide, Timothy Firestine, must sign off on medical panel findings. Firestine said Friday that he had signed off on Davey's case. But by law, he said, he cannot arbitrarily challenge doctors' findings.

"Your hands are basically limited under the current process," Leggett said.

Some say that Leggett is not committed to reforming the disability program and that he won't insist on hard negotiations with the police union.

"There's no law that has his hands tied," said Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), vice president of the County Council. "He says he wants to clean it up, so let's see him clean it up."

Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for Leggett, said that the county executive has tried to negotiate the matter and will continue to do so but that the County Council needs to play a role as well. "The council needs to change the law," he said.

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