Retired Prince George's County Police Chief John W. Rhoads, whose $29,700 annual disability pension drew sharp criticism after he sought a new job, said yesterday he would still be on the job in Prince George's "if the county had not slammed the door in my face."
Rhoads, who was granted a disability pension because of a back ailment, yesterday was denied a reexamination he requested of the county's review board of disability retirements. Rhoads had sought the reexamination because of widespread criticism of his attempts to win an administrator's job in the Orange County, Fla., sheriff's department.
Yesterday's ruling by the review board means that Rhoads will be able to keep his disability pension regardless of whether he takes another job in the near future.
Rhoads said in an interview yesterday that he would have preferred to continue working as the Pringe George's police chief, but that because of flaws in the country's retirement system, he would have been unfairly penalized had he not retired in June.
If he had worked until 1980, Rhoads said, he would have been forced to retire under the police 20-year retirement system. But county regulations clearly specify that employes who retire after 20 years cannot also receive disability benefits. Rhoads' pension thus would have been reduced by about $8,000 annually.
"I said I was disabled and I am disabled under the county's criteria," Rhoads said. "I could have continued to work, but the system would have punished me for it. It's a Catch-22."
Rhoads asked for the review of his condition last week after County Council members and other officials questioned his pursuit of the Florida position.
The chairman of the review board, Bill Brown, said yesterday, however, that there had been "a preponderance of evidence" that Rhoads had a disability in June and that "the board found that his condition could not have changed substantially since then."
Rhoads, who was forced to temporarily withdraw himself from consideration from the $30,000-per-year Florida post because of the controversy surrounding his disability, said he had been irritated and troubled by the criticism he received.
"What really irritates me," Rhoads said, "is that the same people who are doing all the screaming -- the County Council -- are the ones who control the system. They know about this problem, and I tried to get them to do something about it when I was chief. They wouldn't listen to me then, and yet they are going after me now."
"This is a personal thing for me," Rhoads said. "I've never had this kind of problem. There are people who are calling me a criminal and that's been very upsetting to me. It's been quite a jolt to my family.
"Some of my friends think I may have gone out after a job too quickly after I retired," Rhoads said. "But one of the problems with the Prince George's system is that a person in my position has to get another job, eventually. There's no question that I'm going to go back to work somewhere."
Rhoads said he would eventually have to work again because there were no provisions for inflation in his pension and he would eventually need to supplement his income. He added, however, that he was not sure whether he would still be able to take the job in the Florida sheriff's department, even after yesterday's ruling by the review board.
While he stays in the county, Rhoads said, "I'm going to spend a great deal of time trying to get people to do something about this retirement system. Something has to be done about it, because others are going to have my problem."
Rhoads' most vocal critic on the County Council, Sue V. Mills, said yesterday she agreed with Rhoads' criticism of the present police retirement system and hopes to correct the problems with her own legislation. She said of Rhoads, "He wasn't pushed out of this system, he was just allowed to escape through a loophold. It is the loophold we have to close."