Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Montclair ex-cop denied "accidental disability retirement benefits" for alleged PTSD caused by traumatic event.

At its May 2, 2016 meeting, the Police and Firemen's Retirement System (PFRS) affirmed an Administrative Law Judge's denial of accidental disability retirement benefits to a former Montclair Township (Essex County) police officer who claimed that the emotional trauma caused by his February 2009 application of CPR on the body of an already-deceased 9-year-old child rendered him permanently disabled.

In her April 8, 2016 ruling, Administrative Law Judge Evelyn J. Marose noted that former Police Officer Michael Whittle, who served as a Montclair police officer for seven years and previously as a North Caldwell dispatcher for two years, did not apply for disability benefits until February 23, 2012 and did not see any medical professionals about his emotional trauma until April 3, 2012.  Judge Marose also found that Whittle's application was filed only five days before he was found guilty for tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice.  These charges arose out of Whittle arose out of a November 2009 incident in which Whittle allegedly found ten bags of marijuana during an investigation but only reported having found two bags.  On February 29, 2012, he was sentenced to two six-month suspended sentences, a $250 fine and forfeiture of public office.

Judge Marose found one of Whittle's doctors, Dr. Alexander M. Golin, to "not be credible."  She noted that Dr. Golin did not treat Whittle but saw him only "on one occasion to complete a form required by Whittle in support of his disability application."  She also found as "unreliable" the opinions of Dr. Michael R. Bizzarro and Dr. Eugene Stefanelli, neither of whom testified at the hearing.  Judge Marose wrote that both Bizzarro and Stefanelli "essentially formed their opinion that Whittle was disabled based upon statements made by Whittle, who sought their medical support for his application for accidental disability pension benefits."

It is unknown whether Whittle appealed from the PFRS ruling.   Whittle was represented by John D. Feeley of Feeley & LaRocca.