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Ex-Hermosa Fire Chief Charged in Insurance Case

October 02, 1986|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

While a former Hermosa Beach fire chief was charged this week with three felonies for allegedly enrolling his wife on the city's insurance program illegally, the district attorney's office said it is having a difficult time obtaining evidence against two other former officials in similar investigations.

Former Fire Chief Ronald D. Simmons was charged this week with two counts of grand theft and one count of insurance fraud because he allegedly entered an incorrect wedding date on city medical insurance forms.

City records show that Simmons, 54, was denied insurance coverage for his wife, Barbara Myer, after filing an application in July, 1984, listing what he has since said is their actual wedding date--July 28, 1979. He received the coverage about two months later when he reapplied, giving Sept. 8, 1984, as their wedding date. Spouses could be added to the plan without question within 30 days of marriage.

One grand theft charge stems from a $2,600 claim paid by the insurance company to treat Myer's broken ankle. The other resulted from nearly $1,000 in insurance premiums paid by the city for the coverage.

Possible Prison Term

If convicted, Simmons could face up to four years in state prison or a $3,000 fine. He is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 10.

Simmons, of Torrance, is vacationing and could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Robert E. Courtney, declined to comment.

In past interviews, Simmons has said that City Manager Gregory T. Meyer told him to list the incorrect date, which Meyer has denied.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Herb Lapin said no one else is under investigation in connection with the charges filed against Simmons, but added that the district attorney's office is continuing its investigation of former Mayor Jack Wood and former Personnel Administrator Carolyn Smith.

Wood has acknowledged enrolling his girlfriend as his wife in the city's insurance program. But Lapin earlier concluded that health-insurance forms are confidential documents, not public records, so Wood did not violate the state law against falsifying public records.

Did Not File Claim

It would have been illegal for Wood to file a claim on the policy, but there is no evidence that he did so, Lapin said.

Wood could be charged with petty theft because his girlfriend received reduced premiums through the group policy instead of at the higher individual rates, Lapin said.

He said the insurance company might have compromised the case if it accepted reimbursement of the difference in rates--about $120--which city officials have said Wood paid.

The investigation of Smith also centers on a marriage question. She contends that she was married to James Brisson when he was enrolled as her dependent on the city's policy from December, 1982, to August, 1985, according to Personnel Administrator Robert Blackwood.

Missing Marriage License

Lapin said that the district attorney's information suggests that she married Brisson after she resigned from the city in July, 1985, but investigators are having trouble finding a marriage license, he said.

Smith could reached for comment.

None of the insurance companies involved are complaining about the claims and applications filed by Wood, Smith or Simmons, Lapin said.

After four years as fire chief, Simmons resigned in July, 1984, to become an emergency preparedness coordinator with Hughes Aircraft Co. in El Segundo.

On Sept. 3, Simmons quit Hughes, citing personal reasons, said James Knotts, a public-relations manager.

As a result of the three investigations, city employees now are required to read definitions of legal dependents and sign, under penalty of perjury, a statement that says they understand them, Blackwood said.

The investigations were initiated after civic activist Roger Creighton filed a complaint with the district attorney's office regarding discrepancies he found in Simmons', Wood's and Smith's files. He had sued the city to gain access to the records at a personal cost of about $2,000, he said.

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