Fire Chief Robert Hendricks apparently has ended his fight to receive an occupational disability pension from the Lexington police and fire pension board.
The board ruled in October that Hendricks was not eligible for a disability pension. The chief filed an appeal, which was scheduled to be heard during Wednesday morning's police and fire pension board meeting. But board members said the city received a letter Wednesday from Hendricks, saying he no longer wanted to appeal. Members of the pension board did not discuss why Hendricks withdrew, only that his appeal had been "withdrawn completely," not postponed.
The chief was not at Wednesday's meeting.
Hendricks made the request for an occupational disability in May, about three months after Mayor Jim Gray raised questions about Hendricks' leadership skills and then asked him to resign. Hendricks did not resign, and efforts to seek his dismissal were stalled after he requested a disability pension.
Since the pension process is now resolved, the mayor said he hopes to come to an agreement with Hendricks about his employment. Hendricks is technically employed as fire chief, though he is on leave without pay. He receives benefits from the city, Gray said.
The city's attorneys have been in touch with Hendricks' attorneys.
"I look forward to a resolution with this issue in the early part of next year," Gray said.
The mayor said he received notice that Hendricks had withdrawn his pension application Wednesday morning. It was unclear why Hendricks did so.
Hendricks' attorney, Mark Wohlander, said he could not answer any questions about his client.
"There might come a time where we'll be more than happy to sit down and share the whole story with the world, but I think right now we're just going to leave it at no comment," he said.
Hendricks did not return a message for comment.
Addressing speculation that Hendricks has applied for or been hired for one of four open positions in the Georgetown fire department, where Hendricks previously was chief, current Georgetown fire Chief Robert Bruin said Hendricks had not been hired.
"We have not hired anybody. We are going through the process right now," he said.
Bruin and Georgetown human resources director Megan Miller declined to say whether Hendricks was in the applicant pool. Bruin and Miller said they could not address the issue because the applicants were not city employees.
Bruin said a disability claim in another city would not necessarily affect an employment decision in Georgetown.
"We can't ask him those kinds of questions if he were to apply here," Bruin said. "If he doesn't include it in his application, we can't ask him. Just like we can't ask age or about religious preference. There's certain things you can't ask in the hiring process, not until you're going to hire them."
Hendricks receives a service pension from Lexington's fund; he retired as a district major in 1997. After retiring in Lexington he served as fire chief in Georgetown. He was rehired as chief in Lexington in 2002.
The specifics of Hendricks' disability were never made public. Wohlander has said his client applied for the disability pension because of a psychiatric ailment, reminding reporters that Hendricks had served as chief during times of tragedy in Lexington — such as the murder of firefighter Brenda Cowan and the crash of Comair Flight 5191, in which 49 people died — before being publicly asked to resign.
Hendricks' personal physician had ruled that he was disabled, the attorney said, but two of three doctors hired by the pension board disagreed.
The police and fire pension board voted unanimously Oct. 12 to deny Hendricks' request because the majority of the board's doctors who examined Hendricks submitted reports saying he was not totally and permanently disabled. Hendricks appealed that ruling.
The sudden withdrawal of his appeal Wednesday came as a surprise to some board members.
"As of yesterday, I thought we were still going to have the hearing," said board member Tommy Puckett, a retired police officer.
Puckett said he was told Hendricks hand-delivered the letter to the city's law department Wednesday morning, but Puckett hadn't seen the letter and didn't know whether it specified why he was withdrawing his appeal.
Hendricks has been on unpaid leave since Sept. 14. The city has said his employment status was pending the resolution of his disability claim.
As of Wednesday, city spokeswoman Susan Straub said, Hendricks "has not resigned."
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