Former Charles Deputy Claims Wrongful Termination

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Former Charles Deputy Claims Wrongful Termination

La Plata, MD - 5/1/2012

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By Andy Marquis

Charles County Sheriff Rex Roffey (D) waves to the crowd at a parade in Cobb Island, MD.  Former officer Chris Spaulding claims Coffey did not do enough to help him following a PTSD diagnosis.
Charles County Sheriff Rex Roffey (D) waves to the crowd at a parade in Cobb Island, MD. Former officer Chris Spaulding claims Coffey did not do enough to help him following a PTSD diagnosis.
Chris Spaulding served as a deputy for the Charles County Sheriff’s Office for 14 years before he was terminated for exhausting his leave. Spaulding says he being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had claims with the Injured Workers Insurance Fund (IWIF), and that the department delayed the process.
Spaulding claims he had hearings before the IWIF but that those hearings were delayed and postponed until after his leave expired and he was terminated that day. He also says he was being treated for PTSD and hypertension, related to four incidents on the job.
“We would like to be able to share information regarding this case but personnel laws prohibit the agency from commenting at this time unless he authorizes us to discuss this information,” Media Relations Director Diane Richardson from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office said.
Spaulding’s termination letter, dated April 19, 2012, states, “Unfortunately, the Sheriff is not able to offer you leave without pay status at this time. As you were previously notified last month when your police powers were suspended, you were required to return to performing your duties as a Deputy Sheriff upon the exhaustion of your leave, and after being released by your treating physician and completing a Fitness for Duty examination. As we have not heard from you further, and you have not completed a Fitness for Duty examination or returned to performing your duties, your employment with the agency was terminated.”
Spaulding has since asked the media and elected officials for help getting the word about his case out. He also hopes to get the word about PTSD out.
“In September, 2011 I was injured while I was off duty,” Spaulding said. “The injury required me to have surgery conducted to my shoulder. During that time frame I was placed in a ‘Not Fit for Duty’ status and was using my own sick leave so I could get paid and support my family. At the time I had requested to be protected under the Family Leave and Medical Act. This law protected me from losing my position in the department for up to 12 weeks. On, I believe, was December 12, 2011 my FMLA protection had expired and I remained in a ‘Not Fit for Duty’ status. I was forced to remain out of work because when I was being treated for my shoulder injury it was determined that I had uncontrolled hypertension, irregular EKG, and shortly after that I was diagnosed with severe PTSD, severe depressive disorder, and panic disorder. These disorders were brought on by several critical incidents I had been involved with while I worked for the Charles County Sheriff's Office.
“Based on the fact that all my conditions were related to my dedicated service to the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, I submitted ‘Reports of Injury’ and I contacted a attorney and he filed claims with the Workman’s Compensation Commission, all while I was still out on my own leave so I could continue getting pay and benefits so I could do what I could to support my family. Well, as they always do the Injured Workers Insurance Fund (IWIF) and Sheriff Rex Coffey (D) denied my request for relief and denied having any responsibility for my medical conditions. The next step is to request a hearing in front of the Workman’s Compensation Commission. Since IWIF refused to take the claim I was forced to continue using my leave. By this point my family and I were having severe financial problems. Since I had been out of work since September 2011, I had not been able to work any overtime or any part time work which I had to do in order to pay our bills and provide for our 6 children. We had got behind on our mortgage and had applied for assistance through our bank and we were denied because our combined income was too high. I, along with the other sworn officers in the agency had not had a raise in 6 years and our income was still too high. (The American Dream). Due to this financial down fall and the fact I was getting close to running out of leave my attorney filed for an emergency hearing through the commission around the 1st of April. 
“On Thursday, April 18th late in the afternoon I was contacted by a executive command staff member who stated he needed to meet with me and give me a letter. I met with this individual who handed me a photo copied letter through the window of my truck (See the attached letter) which I read. The letter stated my employment with the Charles County Sheriff's Office had been terminated due to the fact I had run out of leave and I was not fit for duty. The letter was signed by Major Gibson, the administrative major and not the Sheriff which I found to be insulting but not surprising. I then contacted my attorney and advised them of my situation and my attorney told me they were already aware of the situation and they also advised me that the agency and IWIF had requested to rescind their agreement to the emergency hearing which had been scheduled for May, 1, 2012 attempting yet again to delay the outcome of my case.
“On Friday April 19th the day after I was terminated, I received my last paycheck from the Sheriff's Office and I was advised that my medical insurance and all of my other benefits would end on May 1st. I was also told that if I wanted to maintain my health insurance through COBRA I would need to pay a $1400.00 premium monthly which will not happen.”
Spaulding also said others offered to donate sick leave to him.
“I always feared that I would lose my job if I asked for help and was honest with the doctors,” Spaulding said. “Well, I guess I had a right to be scared, I no longer have a job. Rex will say that there was nothing he could do, well I know for a fact that is not true. I had many individuals offer to donate their own sick leave to me so I did not run out of leave but the agency would not allow it."

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