Disabled Chicago cop cut off after safari findings surface
Officer had claimed an injury made it impossible for him to safely fire a handgun
By Chris Fusco and Tim Novak
Chicago's police pension board suspended the disability benefits Thursday of a police officer who, after going on disability because of an injury he said made it impossible for him to safely fire a handgun, has shot and killed several animals while on safari.
The eight-member board stopped short, though, of permanently revoking the disability benefits of Charles T. Siedlecki, citing a snafu in notifying him of Thursday's "duty-disability status review."
The board took up Siedlecki's case as the result of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation of disability payments to police officers and firefighters in Chicago. Siedlecki, who now works as a lawyer and a funeral home director, was among officers cited in the "Disability Pays" series who are collecting disability checks while working other jobs.
The news reports previously prompted the pension board to ask Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office to investigate whether criminal charges should be filed against Siedlecki.
The pension board also is reviewing the medical records of the other officers identified in the Sun-Times reports.
The board mistakenly sent Siedlecki's father - retired police Commander Charles C. Siedlecki - a notification about Thursday's review, rather than Siedlecki.
Board attorney David R. Kugler said the younger Siedlecki is aware the board wants to see him to determine whether he is entitled to ongoing disability pay and "disability benefits that have been paid to him in the past."
Siedlecki, 57, has collected more than $715,000 in disability pay since injuring a shoulder 20 years ago, records show. Over the past two decades, Siedlecki's doctor and pension fund doctors have submitted numerous reports stating that Siedlecki's injuries prevent him from returning to work as a cop.
Pension board member Michael Shields, who is also president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing city cops, urged the board to withhold taking any action on Siedlecki's case.
"We have to have a burden of proof in order to suspend benefits," Shields told other board members. "If you want to do it, let's do it right."
But the board voted 5-3 to suspend Siedlecki's disability checks, which now total $51,672 a year, at the urging of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's two appointees to the pension board - Lois Scott, the city's chief financial officer, and city comptroller Amer Ahmad - as well as city Treasurer Stephanie Neely.
The pension board said that if Siedlecki substantiates his disability, it would reimburse Siedlecki for the time he was suspended.
Siedlecki, who could not be reached Thursday for comment, previously told the Sun-Times he planned to remain on disability until he reaches the mandatory police retirement age of 63 because that would be his most financially beneficial course. But now Siedlecki has decided otherwise. According to pension officials, he has submitted paperwork to retire as of Jan. 2.
Charles Siedlecki was among officers cited in the Sun-Times' "Disability Pays" series as collecting a disability check while holding another job.
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