The city council settled 11 workers compensation cases on Tuesday night paying out $479,243.
The three biggest claims were filed by firefighters John Howe for $102,600, Robert Stemmler for $87,750, and public works park caretaker Walter Cruz for $76,413, according to city records.
Howe allegedly injured his lower back while lifting a patient onto a stretcher on Jan. 27, 2015. Stemmler allegedly injured his bilateral shoulders when he tried to prevent a ladder from falling on July 14, 2014. And Cruz allegedly injured his neck and back in a motor vehicle accident on July 2, 2014; on Aug. 23, 2014, he allegedly injured his back lifting the tailgate of a truck, according to city records.
Council members approved settling these three and other claims in a special meeting on Tuesday night. However, the council rejected a workers’ compensation claim filed by retired police chief James Wittig.
Wittig allegedly sustained injuries from “repetitive motion, exposure to irritants,” “loud noises”, and “exposure to stressful situations” in one incident and allegedly injured his left shoulder and neck in a slip and fall up steps at work, according to the city records.
Councilman Michael Jackson led the opposition against approving Witting’s claim. He reportedly said the city needs to do a better job contesting false claims.
Council president William McKoy said the city needs to do a better job documenting injury incidents to be able to better contest them. He voted in favor of paying $34,857 to settle Wittig’s claim.
McKoy said the city has little choice, but to pay the claims. He noted judges and arbitrators often side with workers in these cases. He said the city will ultimately have to pay the cost, but may incur additional expense in litigation.
The administration may present the resolution to pay out Wittig’s claim for a second vote.
The other claims paid out by the city were as follows:
- $56,190 to public works carpenter Nelson Piereschi for an alleged injury he sustained on Aug. 6, 2014 to his back and left up when his leg went through a roof.
- $31,044 was paid out to public works employee Bryant Warren who allegedly injured his neck and back in a car accident on Nov. 22, 2013.
- $27,882 to police officer Jessica Amarante. She allegedly injured her back, neck, head, arms, left hand, and both knees while making an arrest on May 3, 2012.
- $26,293 was approved for firefighter Jorge Cotto III. He allegedly injured his knee and sustained a concussion when stairs collapsed while working at a fire scene on April 24, 2014.
- $20,250 was paid to firefighter Raymond Dean for allegedly injuring his back in a motor vehicle collision on March 3, 2014.
- $18,354 went to public workers driver Albert Jablonowski. He allegedly injured his left foot on Jan. 6, 2015 when he slipped and fell on a patch of ice.
- $16,875 was paid out to Maheem Harley, park caretaker for public works, who allegedly injured his neck and back in a car accident on July 2, 2014.
- And $15,592 was paid out to Alton Dickson, firefighter, for allegedly injuring his left knee after falling in a hole.
The city will pay out the claims from its temporary budget for fiscal year 2018 which starts in July. In fiscal year 2016, the city spent $6.5 million to cover workers compensation claims far more than it had budgeted for that year. It budgeted $4.9 million for workers compensation in fiscal year 2017 (current fiscal year which ends this month).