MONTEREY PARK — Jon D. Elder, who was on sick leave as police chief for more than a year with an illness he attributed to stress caused by City Council members, has received disability retirement.
City Manager Lloyd de Llamas announced Elder's retirement this week and appointed Robert W. Collins, a 32-year veteran of the Police Department, as his successor. Collins had been acting police chief for the past year.
Elder, who headed the Police Department for 10 years, went on sick leave Aug. 6, 1986, after writing a letter to De Llamas accusing council members Barry Hatch and Patricia Reichenberger of "creating job pressures and undue stress that are making me physically and emotionally ill."
Mayor Cam Briglio and Councilman G. Monty Manibog last September accused Hatch and Reichenberger of conducting a "witch hunt" directed at the chief and the department. Hatch and Reichenberger said they had done nothing more than ask questions about police operations. They denied applying pressure to force Elder out, but Elder never returned to work, remaining off the job for a year while drawing full pay.
De Llamas said public safety employees who are injured on the job are entitled to up to a year's sick leave at full salary while their ability to return to work is determined. In Elder's case, De Llamas said, doctors reported that his stress-related disability was permanent and that he could not resume his duties as chief. Therefore, De Llamas said, he decided to place Elder in retirement.
Since his disability stemmed from his job, Elder will be entitled to yearly compensation for life at half the average annual salary of his three highest-earning years, according to city officials. He earned more than $66,000 last year.
In addition, Elder has a worker's compensation claim pending with the city. Constance Wiggins, city personnel risk manager, said the state Workers' Compensation Appeals Board will decide what the city owes Elder for medical bills and disability compensation.
Also unresolved is a $200,000 claim Elder filed against the city in June alleging that Councilman Hatch had invaded his privacy by publicly divulging information from a physician's letter in connection with the worker's compensation case. The council rejected Elder's claim, but he has six months to pursue it by filing a lawsuit.
Reached at his home, Elder said he would have no comment on his retirement or whether he plans to sue the city.
Collins, 63, was promoted to chief this week by De Llamas with the support of the City Council. He joined the Police Department in 1955 after serving in the Navy and seeing combat in World War II and the Korean War.
The department gave Collins its highest honor, the Medal of Valor, in 1986 for grabbing a hand grenade from a man who was threatening to explode it in a bizarre attempt at suicide. Collins said the man called the Police Department from a phone booth and said he would blow up the neighborhood and himself. Collins went to the scene, walked up to the man and took away the grenade after the pin had already been pulled out, arming it to explode.
De Llamas said Collins has worked in every bureau and unit of the Police Department and "is respected throughout the law enforcement community as one of the best investigators ever to pin on a badge."
Collins and his wife, Mitzi, who live in Monterey Park, have a son, John M. Collins, who is a sergeant with the Alhambra Police Department.