Fairfax County officials said yesterday that they have decided to order a 35-year-old paramedic to retire on an $8,000-a-year pension, despite statements from the man's doctors that his diabetic condition is stable and that he is fully capable of performing his job.
"I'm kind of upset, because I don't understand on what grounds they're calling me disabled," said Sgt. John Hart. He has to leave his position with the county fire and rescue service after 13 years because of the 4-to-3 ruling by the Fairfax uniformed services retirement board.
Hart said he plans to ask the board to review its action and, if necessary, he will file a grievance with the county Civil Service Commission, charging that his retirement is unfair, and constitutes an act of discrimination against the handicapped.
Ridgway Espy Jr., chairman of the retirement board, declined to comment on reasons for the decision. A written decision, due later this week, is not expected to list the specifics.
Although the board met twice to review Hart's case, portions of those sessions were held in executive session.
The minutes of those sessions will not be released until after the board approves them at its late July meeting, officials said.
Two doctors, each with more than 1,000 diabetic patients in their care, spoke on Hart's behalf, said his lawyer, Carey Butsavage.
Butsavage charged that the retirement board "ignored the plain medical evidence in front of them" and called the decision "absolutely unexplainable."
"This is a man who takes better care of himself than 99.9 percent of the firefighters they have working in that department," Butsavage said. "He's in perfect excellent physical health, and they won't let him work because their view of diabetes is straight out of the dark ages."