Council rejects officer's second request to delay discipline hearing

jmadden@herald-leader.comJune 24, 2014 

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council denied for the second time this month a Lexington police officer's request to delay his disciplinary hearing.

Lawyers for Officer Keith Spears asked the council Tuesday to delay the June 30 disciplinary hearing because it could affect his effort to receive a disability pension from the Lexington police and fire pension board.

The pension board meeting is scheduled for August, but if Spears is punished next week he would have to resign after the disability process, according to documents filed by Spears' attorney Mary Sharp.

Spears' disciplinary hearing was scheduled after he pleaded guilty to an amended charge of harassment with no physical contact in Scott District Court for a confrontation in October with a 13-year-old soccer referee at a youth soccer game. Spears pleaded guilty in January and agreed to pay $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.

On June 17, council was urged by LFUCG attorney Keith Horn to move forward with the hearing because it had been postponed too long. Horn spoke little during Tuesday's meeting and reiterated his initial thoughts about the case.

In an affidavit, Sharp referenced the handling of former police officer Ronald Brown and firefighter Robert Hendricks, who have had their disciplinary cases "continued to allow the disciplinary process" and allowed employees to go through the "hoops" of the disability process before a disciplinary hearing.

In a response to Sharp's motion, Horn denied that public safety employees were able to go through the "disability process." Instead Brown's case was continued due to an illness by his attorney, and Hendricks' case had several issues regarding disciplinary actions, so charges were not filed and a hearing was never conducted, Horn said.

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

Spears applied for the disability pension March 7. It is not clear what type of disability Spears listed on his application.

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.

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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