“Taking care of their own” – Callahan claim filed

October 29, 2010


San Luis Obispo city officials have confirmed that a workers compensation claim based on presumptive causes was filed on behalf of former Fire Chief John Callahan that is slated to cost the taxpayers about $7,000 per month.

Callahan, 61, died suddenly of a heart attack on Aug. 18 while playing softball at Santa Rosa Park. Within weeks, a workers’ compensation claim was filed.

“It is a brother or sisterhood and they are taking care of their own,” said one former San Luis Obispo council member, who asked not to be identified.

City councilwoman, and mayoral candidate, Jan Marx told CalCoastNews that the issue has not been brought in front of the city council at this time, but noted the sensitive nature of the subject because Callahan was “beloved.”

Presumptive injuries, which include heart attacks, are injuries that have developed while working on the job. State laws allow for public safety workers to file claims of work related injuries not afforded to the general public.

Even so, according to California Labor Code section 3212, “The hernia, heart trouble, or pneumonia so developing or manifesting itself in those cases shall in no case be attributed to any disease existing prior to that development or manifestation.”

Callahan had a previous heart attack about a year ago, sources said.

In order to be fully vested in CalPERS, a person has to have worked for a department for five years. Callahan was about 10 weeks short of five years when he died and was not eligible for a city retirement.

However, if it is determined Callahan was on the job when he suffered a heart attack or that the heart attack was caused from his work as a fire fighter, his widow could be eligible for a tax free workers compensation benefit.

After 32 years with the Los Angeles Fire Department Callahan retired and began drawing a pension of approximately $170,000 a year. Callahan was appointed San Luis Obispo fire chief in Nov. 2005 and planned on retiring as soon as he was fully vested in CalPERS, Nov. 2010.


Had Mr. Calahan suffered a heart attack and been placed on limited duty the public should not be on the hook, if he was released and considered to be able to lead a normal unlimited active life then the fact he had a heart troubles, holding this against him would be considered descrimination and could be used on a lawsuit.. How much is enough one has to ask, and no disrespect to fire services, however consder that the public or somebody has put firefighters on a pedastal far above the rest of the working class after 911 with the perks they get. They go into action when fire strikes, its not a good thing, but neither is a war and somebody has to fight that well. I dont recall our young soldiers living in hell day in and out overseas getting this kind of preferential treatment when they retire.


I’m sorry Undertow, but I have to call a spade a spade.

Your analysis isn’t logical. You clearly think that soldiers deserve pensions and compensation for their risks and work, but have a whole paragraph that purports that firefighters shouldn’t because soldiers don’t.

And this is exactly what is wrong with our system. The rich get richer and the poor and middle class get poorer, because we are all kept finger-pointing at each other about who has a few more pennies, while the rich abscond with the gold.

The only thing your mentality and argument does is support policies whereby the middle class and poor get poorer and loose benefits. Come on people, we have to get smarter about this if we are to save the quality of life for the average person.

I know you are probably an awesome person, but your argument doesn’t help soldiers, firefighters, or private system employees. It helps the rich at the expense of the worker, the wage earner, the servant, the peasants, the middle class, the poor, the elderly, the bereaved, etc.


I disagree with you. Where did you get this stuff? Undertow made a perfectly valid point and yours only complicate things. What about our soldiers? What about trash collectors-see how long society lasts if they stop working!

It’s obscene how much money some people make after being put on administrative leave (cops) or die (fire chiefs). If the family initiated this claim they are greedy, if our dear city weirdos did they should be fired immediately for giving our money away. Hard to believe, this crap is no better than all that jazz in Bell…


It’s simple really:

What I was illustrating is that using one group of workers who are clearly underpaid and undervalued in terms of benefits (many soldiers) given the risk of their job as a point of comparative reference only serves to make the situation worse for everyone.

We shouldn’t be saying that firefighters shouldn’t be paid for the risks of their jobs, because soldiers don’t.

We should be saying: Soldiers deserve better than most of them get.

Squabbling over pennies is pointless and distracting from the real problems. Most firefighters do not make what this chief made. He represents less than .01% of all firefighters. The fact that everyone keeps using him as the Model for all firefighter is laughable in its oversimplification and statistically incorrect stereotype. Everyone knows this deep down, but using him feeds their frenzy and lynch mob mentality. Frankly, that fact alone is creepy and disturbing.

So, then when we take hazard pay from firefighters, we can say to soldiers later, well look, you don’t deserve better than pennies cause that’s all we will give our police and our firefighters. Go ahead and die for our country, our state, our county, our city And when you are gone, we will dehumanize your wife, your kids, your life, and your gift of 32 years of service to your comminity and fellow citizens.


It will be interesting to see how/if The Tribune handles this story. Executive Editor Sandy Duerr and John Callahan were both members of the Wednesday Rotary Club in SLO–a reminder as to why journalists should not join service clubs. The more independent, the better. We’ll see.


How about publishing his salary? How about publishing his duties? How about publishing how much ‘beloved’ is worth? I think I could go for an attitude adjustment for $200k/year if I’m not ‘beloved enough now.


This situation is one that keeps infurating a person more and more. The line, taking care of their own??? Then if you are taking care of your own why are the taxpayers fitting the bill!!!!????

Also if I read correct (and I am only commenting on the workers comp now not the existing retirement) this is suppose to be tax free!!??? You have GOT TO BE F>>>ING KIDDING ME!? How much more do we the tax payers keep getting RAPED!?

Here it is folks right here in black and white. One reason why we are going broke nationally, at the state level and local. Until the last thirty years we had service for years that was the same without all these bennies as we do now. So why in the hell are we paying this? I say it is way past time to take back from bottom up to Washington all the perks that are busting our nation.

I am even at this point for privatizing police and fire. I bet if run like a business we would get all the runaway costs and perks under control. Take the money set aside for these services, write a contract with a company and how they would provide services and that way there is no more money to keep coming back to the well for if they overrun. Would this be perfect. Well let me ask this. Could it be much worse than what we have now??


Jan Marks just lost my vote. No one is “beloved” after being in town for less than 5 years. We are already going to fork out $18,000 a uear to his widow for his 4 years of service. So, she will be making $200,000 a year in pensions. Thats probably enough. Jan, i am not beloved, but i am a real nice guy. How about you grant me say 3000 a month……I love my dog…thats another 500. You are living in some deluded dream world Jan. No wonder the city is in the mess its in. Between your fiscal incompetence and your membership in the Copeland Family Trust its a miracle we have any funds for the general public at all. We do have some funds right…..they dont all go to the city administrators and the Copeland family Right ?


If the numbers are reported correctly. his deceased current double dip tax payer retirement goes from $170,000 to $254,000 annually not including benefits for life.

We are better off giving government retirees more benefits and higher salaries now. That way we can stop procrastinating the inevitable and get their ridicules gravy train into bankruptcy and void these unsustainable and unrealistic government employee & union contracts. The sooner the better.

Meanwhile, the level of fire protection continues to deteriorate and services reduced. All because labor & benefits costs are on average 80-85% of the fire departments budget and INCREASING. Yes that;s right $15 of every $100 of your fire taxes is being spent on providing fire services, $85 is going to increasingly unsustainable compensation, benefits and retirement packages for life!

Stop The Gravy Train, Turn a deaf ear to every political add and solicitation with the words Fire & Police!

Real Hero’s are not in it for the money! The past bonds of trust between the public and the police and firefighters are being eroded by greed, excessive union & association demands, and a lack of professionalism and customer service in the public eye!

Harsh & True…


I don’t get it? This is crazy ….. If Chief Callhann suffered a heart attack a year ago why would the City Manager allow him to engage in a sport that requires sudden bursts of speed for base running fielding etc. Someone mentioned that the City Manager was on the same team as Callhann. If this is true the city was begging for trouble and the City Manager made a foolish call ….. How much does she make again?


It looks like the heart attack one year ago should pretty much conclude this workman’s comp case in the favor of his survivor. At least this article has been shifted to focus on workman’s compensation law where it should be.

jeremy fisher

I’d say it’s unbelievable but it’s not in the age of entitlements. This country better do something quick or we’re all going to be broke.


We ARE broke…we just don’t realize HOW broke we really are…

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