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.