Disability pension denied for ex-Lexington officer who confronted teen referee

Keith Spears
Keith Spears

A former Lexington police officer who got into an altercation with a teenage referee in October will not receive a disability retirement, the city's police and fire pension board voted Wednesday.

Members of the board, which include city officials, current and retired police officers and firefighters, voted 8 to 2 not to grant the disability retirement of Keith Spears after meeting behind closed doors for more than 30 minutes.

There was no discussion before the vote.

Spears, who attended the meeting, declined to comment.

Spears can request a re-hearing in 20 days. If the application is denied again, he can appeal the board's decision to Fayette Circuit Court.

It is not clear what type of disability Spears listed on his application. Spears' disability application can not be disclosed under the state's Open Records law.

Spears resigned in June rather than face a disciplinary hearing before the Urban County Council. Spears tried twice to delay his police disciplinary hearing before the Urban County Council until after the pension board meeting. Both requests were denied.

Spears pleaded guilty in January to charges related to an October confrontation with a 13-year-old referee at a youth soccer game. He pleaded guilty in Scott District Court to an amended charge of harassment with no physical contact, and paid $403 in fines and court costs. He also made a $750 donation to the Kentucky Soccer Referee Association, and apologized to the boy and his parents.

Spears' lawyers have said that his disability claim was not related to the altercation with the teen referee. In arguments before the council, city officials have said that Spears filed for disability in March 2014, shortly after meeting with Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin concerning the October altercation.

To receive a disability retirement, a police officer or firefighter must be considered totally and permanently disabled after the board receives written certification from at least two physicians selected by the board.

According to records of the police and fire pension board, Spears was sent to a third doctor. That is typically done when there are questions about the disability claim.

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.

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