Lexington officer who wanted to delay disciplinary hearing submits resignation

jmadden@herald-leader.comJune 26, 2014 

Keith Spears pleaded guilty to harassment.

Lexington police officer Keith Spears, who had twice asked city council to waive his disciplinary hearing, resigned Thursday because of a disability.

Spears, in a letter to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council and Police Chief Ronnie Bastin, said that in addition to his disability that he didn't want to "place the Department or myself under further public scrutiny."

Lawyers for Spears battled with council earlier this month over a disciplinary hearing that was scheduled for June 30. Spears and his attorneys were concerned because the disciplinary hearing could have affected his effort to receive a disability pension from the Lexington police and fire pension board.

Spears' attorney, Mary W. Sharp, could not be reached for comment.

Spears was set to appear for a disciplinary hearing that was scheduled for Monday after he pleaded guilty in January for a confrontation in October with a 13-year-old referee at a youth soccer game. Spears pleaded guilty in Scott District Court to an amended charge of harassment with no physical contact. He agreed to pay $403 in fines and court costs, agreed to make a $750 donation to the Kentucky Soccer Referee Association, and apologized to the boy and his parents.

However, Spears insisted that in no way is he "relinquishing my rights to proceed through the Disability Retirement Procedure of the Pension Board" because his disability was filed before any personnel issues.

However, LFUCG attorney Keith Horn, responding to Spears' letter, said the disciplinary process and disability pension matters are handled differently.

Horn said it's "disingenuous" for Spears to claim that his disability pension application was filed before there were personnel issues because he was charged Oct. 23, 2013 and filed for the disability pension March 7, days after meeting with Bastin, who directed the issue to the Disciplinary Review Board.

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.

Susan Combs, the pension administrator for the police and firefighter fund, told the Herald-Leader that Spears' disability hearing was tentatively scheduled for August. But the board will have to decide whether Spears' disability claim can be heard. No one has ever resigned and then sought a disability pension, Combs said.

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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