Lexington cop who harassed teen referee faces disciplinary hearing; outcome could affect disability pension

jmadden@herald-leader.comJune 17, 2014 

The Urban County Council will move forward with a June 30 disciplinary hearing against a Lexington police officer despite a request from the officer's lawyer to delay the hearing.

Mary Sharp, an attorney for Officer Keith Spears, asked the council on Tuesday to delay the hearing until after the Lexington police and fire pension board meeting to determine whether Spears should be awarded a disability pension. It is not clear what type of disability Spears listed on his application.

The disciplinary hearing was scheduled after Spears pleaded guilty in Scott District Court to an amended charge of harassment with no physical contact. The charges stemmed from a confrontation in October with a 13-year-old soccer referee at a youth soccer game. Spears "verbally confronted" Nathaniel Rase and then "shoved him and grabbed his wrist," according to court documents.

Spears paid $403 in fines and court costs, agreed to make a $750 donation to the Kentucky Soccer Referee Association, and apologized to Nathaniel and his parents, Dean and Jennifer Rase.

An internal investigation was launched last fall after Lexington police learned about the confrontation. Internal investigations typically run parallel to court proceedings. When court proceedings wrap up, the internal investigations can be completed.

Spears, of Stamping Ground, pleaded guilty in January, but the disciplinary hearing was delayed several times, attorneys said.

Sharp told the council that if Spears is awarded a disability pension, the disciplinary hearing will be moot. Sharp said that Spears is on unpaid leave.

But Keith Horn, a lawyer for the city, asked the council not to delay the hearing. Horn said that Spears' application for a disability pension was different and separate from the disciplinary hearing.

"Your focus is on the disciplinary hearing," Horn said Tuesday. Horn also said the disciplinary hearing had been delayed for too long. The incident involving Spears happened in October and it was now June.

According to information provided to the council, Spears applied in May for a disability pension.

In order to receive a disability retirement, a police officer or firefighter is considered totally and permanently disabled after the board receives written certification from at least two physicians selected by the board. For a job-related disability, the minimum annuity rate is 60 percent of the employee's final salary, and the maximum rate is 75 percent. Unlike a service retirement, disability retirement can be applied for before 20 years of service. Disability retirement income is tax-free, and children of disabled officers and firefighters can attend any state college or university for free until age 23.

The council was told Tuesday that if the council terminates Spears at the June 30 hearing, he would not be eligible for a disability pension.

Spears has been a Lexington officer since January 2001 and has worked in the department's Bureau of Administration.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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