City pension commissioners voted Thursday to strip a former Los Angeles police officer, who is now a sheriff in Oregon, of a disability pension that he has drawn for more than 10 years after doctors reported that he is fit enough to take a light-duty LAPD job.
The 6-1 vote by the Los Angeles Board of Pension Commissioners means that the former officer, William E. Arnado, could almost immediately lose his tax-free pension of $1,945 a month.
Arnado, 45, who has a history of back trouble, was elected sheriff of Josephine County (Grants Pass), Ore., last year, a job with an annual salary of $32,934.
Arnado said in a telephone interview that his back is still a problem and that he would not leave his sheriff's post without a court fight.
Waiting for Appeal
"I'm not going to make any decision until after the case is appealed" in Los Angeles County Superior Court, he said.
A muscular former Marine, Arnado hurt his back while lifting weights at the Police Academy in 1974. After he underwent disc surgery, the commissioners unanimously granted him a disability pension in 1977.
The next year, Arnado offered to move back to Los Angeles from Grants Pass and take a light duty police job but the commissioners rejected his proposal. This decision stood until 1983, when Arnado, then a Josephine County sheriff's deputy, shot and subdued an armed man who had barricaded himself in a house.
In light of this incident, two Los Angeles police investigators were sent to Grants Pass to determine if Arnado's back had healed. Among their findings was that Arnado was able to play racquetball and that he had become a martial arts instructor for sheriff's deputies. Shortly afterward, the commissioners reopened his pension disability case.
Examined by Doctors
Thursday's vote came after Commissioner Sam Diannitto, a city Fire Department representative, said city doctors recently examined Arnado and concluded that despite his back problems, he is "capable of going back to work" as a Los Angeles policeman.
The lone dissenting vote was cast by the pension board's vice president, Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Ken Staggs, who said it would be "an injustice to put him back in the department" after so many years of allowing Arnado a disability pension.
Arnado's attorney, Karl L. Moody, said his client was "a victim of changes" in city policy that now calls for finding jobs for injured policemen. "He has the same back condition he had in 1978," Moody told a reporter. "It's not fair to uproot him now after 10 years."