The workers’ comp case that San Luis Obispo won’t discuss

October 27, 2010


San Luis Obispo city officials are refusing to answer questions about a workers’ compensation claim filed on behalf of San Luis Obispo Fire Chief John Callahan, who died last summer, slated to cost the taxpayers about $7,000 per month.

Information about workers compensation claims is supposedly open to the public. CalCoastNews has contacted multiple San Luis Obispo city hall staff, city council members, and state employees, none of whom will comment on the Callahan case.

In refusing comment, these officials are either claiming the issue is covered under privacy laws, are declining to discuss the filing or are failing to return emailed questions from CalCoastNews.

Callahan, 61, died suddenly of a heart attack on Aug. 18 while playing baseball on a city soft ball league. Participants in the league are required to sign a waiver in order to protect the city and other public entities from monetary claims.

“In consideration of participating in the San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Softball League, I hereby waive, release, and discharge any and all claims for damages, death, personal injury, or property damage which I may have, or which may hereafter accrue to me, as a result of my participation in said program,” the waiver says.  “It is further understood that this waiver, release, and assumption of risk is to be binding on my heirs and assigns.”

After 32 years with the Los Angeles Fire Department, Callahan retired as a deputy chief and began drawing his retirement of approximately $170,000 a year. Then in Nov. 2005, Callahan was appointed San Luis Obispo fire chief and continued to draw his retirement plus his chief’s salary.

In order to be fully vested in CalPERS, a worker has to have been employed by an agency for five years. Callahan was about 10 weeks shy of five years when he passed away.

If he is not awarded workers compensation, Callahan’s widow will continue to receive his retirement from Los Angeles and about $1,500 a month from his time in San Luis Obispo.

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 workers compensation claim of tax free compensation.

California workers compensation consultant Tim Brown said that information on workers compensation claims is public, but in this case, a request would have to be mailed and he expected a lengthy reply period.

“I’ve already had my hand slapped for talking about this,” Brown said, referring to the Callahan case. He referred all press inquiries to the department’s public relations person–who just happens to be out of the office this week.



  1. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    First off I love this arguement of lynch mob. People, learn the term.

    Websters: Lynch Mob
    “a mob that kills a person for some presumed offense without legal authority”

    First off, I nor anyone I have seen on the boards here has asked for the killing of this family. I have seen the word mob mentiality and I could go with that but for crimmeny sakes lets use the right vernacular to make an arguement.

    Second, on the arguement of double dipping. I find it riduclus that someone works 20 years and then gets a penison at about 80% of original pay. Then get done with that job and get back in line. Lets get the retirement up to something more reasonable like at least 30 years. Or if they want to retire at 20 fine pay out at 40% till they reach at least 62. That way if they want to get another job fine. That would allow them to get a less stressfull job to finish their work life and between the 40% and the new job, they would still be making a nice living.

    People can argue all day that the pension system is great but I have read to much over the years, to believe that this is not part of the problem with where the state and the U.S. is now. Is it the only problem. No but it is having an impact on budgets.

    On the fact that he could play ball and get workers comp. Like all the other stuff that is coming to light of how the taxpayers have been SOLD out to the unions for the last thirty years, this was a new one to me on the posting of the law. I have no reason to doubt that it looks like that may very well be the sitituation. Does that make it right. Not in my book and hopefully as it is getting out here, that will also get out to the general public along with all this pension bullshit and we can start regeining in thirty years of excesss at the expenence of the people of the state of California. Time to start changing some laws going forward.

    (21) 25 Total Votes - 23 up - 2 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      Fifth paragraph, ment to say believe that this is part of the problem. Not to say, not part of the problem.

      (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  2. Bob says:

    We need a constitutional amendment that limits all government retirees to a maximum of 50% of their last 5 year average of actual salary without exception.

    (24) 38 Total Votes - 31 up - 7 down
  3. ApathyWillKillYou says:

    I see no problem with ‘double dipping’. If a person worked their job for several years and part of their employment was to receive compensation upon retirement so be it. They EARNED their retirement!
    And after a person retires, according to the anti double dippers they should NOT be allowed to seek employment that offers a retirement pension even if they abide by the conditions of employment!

    The problem lies with the employer offering grandiose retirement benefits on the taxpayers dime!

    If the former Chief is entitled to Workmens Comp then it will be decided by others in government to receive similar compensation!

    The BIGGER problem is the City of SLO not being transparent with taxpayers money!

    It’s strange that due to the economic crisis millions have been laid off. But I’ll bet that government employee layoffs are no way near proportional to the private sector!

    (11) 25 Total Votes - 18 up - 7 down
  4. Vallybear says:

    It is ironic that so many are coming to the defense of this former employee. Isn’t this just what the Republicans have been griping about? Wasn’t this double dipping? I am sure the fire chief did his job quite well; and after 32 years with LA, why shouldn’t he? He was not the only one who could not get enough. It seems that his family is also willing to dip their fingers into the public’s pot (workmen’s comp). So, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain about double dipping when you knowingly hire someone who is already getting a huge retirement benefit.

    (15) 21 Total Votes - 18 up - 3 down
  5. Cindy says:

    What is being done about the cities blatant refusal to release this public information? It’s bad enough that they have created reams of red tape to protect themselves from the public action, like firing cheats and incompetents that work for us, or giving themselves raises. Now they are blatantly ignoring the laws that we have in place which demand transparency. I hope CCN files charges against them.

    (15) 17 Total Votes - 16 up - 1 down

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