In the Line of Duty
Part I
BCFD Commendations
Appreciation Award (3) 95, 99, 01
Meritorious Conduct (2) 99, 01
Mayor's Citation (6) 95, 99 (2), 01 (2), 02
Mayor's Proclamation (3) 96, 99, 01
Distinguished Unit Citation (3) 99 (1), 02 (2)
Box 414 Assoc. Firefighter of the Year 2001


Introduction
I was eminently qualified for the position of firefighter by virtue of the many times I was cited for meritorious conduct during my career until I suffered a disabling Line of Duty injury, which led to me being deemed medically disqualified from the performance of my duties by the City of Baltimore. I was assigned to Truck Company 1, Oldtown Station, which covers the lower eastside business district in downtown Baltimore City. Truck Company 1 is consistently ranked among the busiest Truck Companies in Baltimore, responding to over 3,000 calls for service every year.
 BCFD Run Totals    
2016
Truck 5 - 5261
Truck 1 - 4734
Truck 16 - 4431
Truck 10 - 3235
Truck 27 – 3211

2015
Truck 5 - 4029
Truck 16 - 3850
Truck 1 - 3727
Truck 27 - 2975
Truck 26 – 2668

The incident...
On August 2, 1996, at approximately 5 P.M., a fire was reported in an office building in the 600 Block of N. Davis Street and a box assignment was “struck out” by the Communications Division of the Baltimore City Fire Department. A box assignment consists of 4 engine companies, 2 truck companies, a battalion chief, an air-flex, and medic unit. Engine companies bring water and hose, truck companies are equipped with the ladders and tools. Truck Company 1 arrived on the scene first and reported smoke showing from all floors of a 5-story building in the rear location. I, along with other members of Truck Company 1, put ground ladders in place and entered the building to search for any trapped occupants, to ventilate the structure, and to provide access to the seat of the fire for incoming engine companies. Upon entering the building, we encountered extremely dense smoke and intense heat. I made my way to the 5th floor stairwell, after performing a primary search of the rest of the building, and was about to enter that floor when I heard an engine company advancing a hose-line from the floor below to my location. This is typical of aggressive interior firefighting operations that are necessary to limit the fire from extending to adjoining structures. I utilized a ceiling hook to penetrate the ceiling and exposed the seat of the fire in that space. Due to a delay in getting the charged hose-line in place, the fire progressed very rapidly, as it was being exposed to more air and the area “flashed over”. A flashover occurs when the internal temperatures are sufficient enough to ignite the flammable gases that occur, as a result of the thermal layering of those gases in enclosed spaces. The force of the simultaneous combusting of those gases was enough to send me over a railing and down the stairwell to the first floor. I hit the ground with enough force that it caused the separation of components of my helmet to occur. The incident escalated to 5 alarms, which should sufficiently show the severity of the fire and the severity of the mechanism of the injury suffered. Despite the severity of the injury, my post-surgical recovery went remarkably well and I was able to return to the full performance of my duties within 3 months.
2014
Truck  -
Truck  -
Truck  -
Truck  -
Truck  –

2013
Truck 5 - 4795
Truck 1 - 4431
Truck 16 - 4018
Truck 27 - 2632
Truck 8 – 2544

2012
Truck 15 - 4097
Truck 16 - 3587
Truck 1 - 3414
Truck 10 - 2582
Truck 8 – 2492

2011
Truck 15 - 3556
Truck 16 - 3290
Truck 1 - 2858
Truck 5 - 2765
Truck 8 – 2367

Return to duty...
No Employee Incident Report is introduced into the record, despite Maryland Law requiring one to be completed. (EXHIBIT 1)
If probative evidence is required to be introduced, the injury report would be essential. Why this was withheld has never been addressed.
THE WITHHOLDING OF EVIDENCE LED TO THE ERROR IN THE FIRST HEARING FOR SPECIAL LINE OF DUTY RETIREMENT BENEFITS   
On May 8, 1997, approximately 7 months after returning to duty , I experienced another episode of back pain. Out of an abundance of caution, with respect to the injury that occurred just prior to this, I sought the care of my doctor, who placed me off duty for 4 days due to what was diagnosed as a mild muscle strain. I continued with the full performance of my duties for 2 years after that until I suffered a recurrence of that injury and was deemed to be medically disqualified from the performance of my duties by the City of Baltimore in 1999, as a direct and proximate cause of the Line of Duty injury that had occurred on August 2, 1996.
NFPA 1582-3     
NFPA 1582 Standard on Medical Requirements, 1992 Edition or later revision shall be used as a guideline for clinical judgment of physical and medical suitability of public safety personnel, both prospective and incumbent.
What happens when the City says you are done?
As the policies of the Baltimore City Fire Department grants the Medical Director for the City full discretion over the duty status of any member returning to duty following a line of duty injury, members are ordered by the Chief of Fire Department to file an application for disability retirement benefits from the Fire and Police Employees Retirement System of Baltimore City.
Pursuant to the Baltimore City Code, Article 22, a hearing was conducted before the Panel of Hearing Examiners for the Fire and Police Employees Retirement System of Baltimore City to determine eligibility for Special Line of Duty disability retirement benefits. The medical file was submitted by the City of Baltimore to the Fire and Police Employees Retirement System of Baltimore City and presented, as the record before the Panel of Hearing Examiners for that administrative hearing. The Fire and Police Employees Retirement System of Baltimore City was represented by the Baltimore City Solicitor. I was represented by private counsel.
         

MOP 327    
Determination of the duty status for all employees is the responsibility of the Medical Director.
Article 22 Balto. City Code  
Denial of disability benefits, the first time...
Article 22, sec 34 Balto. City Code  
(d)  Allowance on non-line-of-duty disability retirement.
(1) Any member who retires on account of non-line-of-duty disability on or before October 15, 1992, shall receive an allowance as follows:
(A) an annuity which shall be the actuarial equivalent of his accumulated contributions at the time of retirement; and
(B) a pension which, together with his annuity, shall provide a total retirement allowance equal to:
1. 2.5% of his average final compensation for each of the first 20 years of service, plus
2. 2% of his average final compensation for each year thereafter.

At the conclusion of that administrative hearing, the hearing examiner ruled that I was disabled from the further performance of my duties, however, the hearing examiner failed to rule on the evidence presented in the record and made a critical error that did not support his findings of fact. I was awarded an Ordinary Disability pension, which is reflective of this injury not occurring in the Line of Duty and is significantly less than the Special Line of Duty Retirement Benefit, despite being qualified for the full Special Line of Duty Disability Retirement Benefit. I appealed the arbitrary and capricious determination, however, before the appeal could be heard by the Circuit Court, the City of Baltimore reinstated me to the full performance of my duties in January of 2001.

The basis for the appeal was that the hearing examiner abused his discretion by making a determination that was reached from utilizing evidence that was not a part of the record or transcript before the panel. On page 2 of Decision 1, the hearing examiner states,
See Decision 1    
"The claimant did injure his back lifting weights working out on May 8, 1999 when he was not working as a Firefighter, and his physical incapacity is not the result of an accident occurring while in the performance of duty at some definite time and place and without willful negligence on his part."

As evidence clearly shows, the injury the hearing examiner is referring to occurred not in 1999, as he states in his decision, but in 1997. There is no evidence contained in the evidence or any testimony provided that demonstrates that any injury occurred on May 8, 1999, as I was already off duty since March 23, 1999 with a recurrence of the injury that occurred while I was working.

I continued with the full performance of my duties until I experienced another episode of back pain that caused me to seek medical treatment again in June of 2002. It was found that the narrowing of the vertebral disc space that was evident in the occurrence of the original surgery had progressed to the point that surgical intervention would be required. It was again determined by the City of Baltimore that I would be retired due to the injury. Despite settled Maryland Law on the issue of the causation of work-related injuries, the City of Baltimore incorrectly classified this as a Non-Line of Duty injury. I grieved this erroneous determination with my Union representative. I was informed that the grievance was rejected due to my status reflecting that I was being medically disqualified from the further performance of my duties.

See Appeal 1    
Denial of disability benefits, the second time...
I was again ordered to apply for Special Disability Retirement Benefits from the Fire and Police Employees Retirement System of Baltimore City and was determined to be “not disabled from the further performance of the duties of a firefighter” and all benefits were denied again by the same hearing examiner who issued the prior denial in error.
         
An appeal to the Court was timely filed in this matter. The appeal was dismissed due to a lack of prosecution. Upon being notified of the dismissal, I requested of the Court to reopen the appeal, however, that request was denied. Rather than appeal that decision, I filed an action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, for discrimination against the City of Baltimore. The fraud that is alleged is detailed herein.
See Decision 2    
See Appeal 2    

Next: The Fraud

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