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					                                      STATE OF NEW YORK
THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI                                                                 STEVEN J. HANCOX
                           OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER                       DEPUTY COMPTROLLER
   COMPTROLLER                          110 STATE STREET                   DIVISION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
                                     ALBANY, NEW YORK 12236                  AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY
                                                                          Tel: (518) 474-4037 Fax: (518) 486-6479


                                         March 20, 2009


 Mr. Phillip Amicone, Mayor
 And Members of the City Council
 City of Yonkers
 40 South Broadway
 Yonkers, NY 10701

 Report Number: P8-8-18

 Dear Mayor Amicone and Members of the City Council:

 One of the Office of State Comptroller’s primary objectives is to identify areas where local
 government officials can improve their operations and provide guidance and services that will
 assist them in making those improvements. Our goals are to develop and promote short-term and
 long-term strategies to enable and encourage local government officials to reduce costs, improve
 service delivery and to account for and protect their entity’s assets.

 In accordance with these goals, we conducted an audit of the administration of certain benefits
 provided to firefighters and police officers who are injured or become sick while performing
 their duties in seven cities located in Orange and Westchester counties. The objectives of our
 audit were to determine: (1) whether the City’s program for administering these benefits are
 appropriately designed and operating effectively; and (2) if administrative improvement
 opportunities are available to cities to reduce the amount of benefits paid under these programs.
 We included the City of Yonkers (City) in this audit. Within the scope of this audit, we examined
 the policies and procedures of the City, and General Municipal Law Sections 207-a and 207-c
 and analyzed claims for benefits for the period January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2006.

 This report of examination letter contains our findings and recommendations specific to the City
 of Yonkers. The results of our audit and recommendations have been discussed with City
 officials and their comments, which appear in Appendix A, have been considered in preparing
 this report. City officials disagreed with the findings and recommendations in our report.
 Appendix B includes our comments on the issues raised in the City’s response letter. At the
 completion of our audit of the other cities, we will prepare a global report that summarizes the
 significant issues we identified at all of the cities audited.
Summary of Findings

We found that improvements can be made in administrating benefits for injured firefighters and
police officers which may help reduce the extent of leave and associated costs for City
firefighters and police officers.1 The fire department lacked sufficient policies and procedures
which resulted in $18,632 being paid for medical expenses prior to or without approval for
benefits. We also found that the department surgeons were not adequately monitoring
firefighters or police officers on leave. We found the departments lost 387 days of work where
light duty assignments were not used. The $136,005 of salaries paid for days not worked, may
have been reduced if City officials had increased monitoring and the use of light duty
assignments.

Background and Methodology

The City, located in Westchester County, is the fourth largest city in New York State with a
population of nearly 200,000 residents covering approximately 18 square miles. In 2007, the fire
and police departments had an average of 483 and 635 employees, respectively. The fire
department protects the lives and property for the citizens of the City. The police department
works to enforce the laws and provides services to protect residents and preserve the peace. In
2007, the City adopted a budget of $47.4 million for the fire department and $69.1 million for the
police department.

Generally, when an employee of the City is injured in the performance of his or her duties and,
as a result, is unable to work, they may be eligible for benefits under the State’s Workers’
Compensation Law. The maximum indemnity payment that a disabled worker would be entitled
to receive under the Worker’s Compensation Law is two-thirds of the worker's weekly wages, up
to the statutory cap, which during the audit period was $400 per week ($500 per week beginning
July 1, 2007). However, injured firefighters and police officers may also be eligible for benefits
under the State’s General Municipal Law (GML).

Accidents, whether caused by the employee's own actions or by external factors can be
compensable as long as they occur in the course of employment. The City is self-insured and
incurs expenses for firefighters and police officers who are injured or become sick while
performing their duties. The City paid almost $1.4 million in salaries and $894,000 in medical
costs for the firefighters and almost $4.7 million in salaries and about $1.3 million in medical
costs for police officers during our audit period of January 2005 through December 2006.

Section 207-a of the GML (207-a) addresses benefits paid for injured firefighters and Section
207-c (207-c) addresses benefits paid for injured police officers. These laws require
municipalities, among other things, to pay firefighters and police officers who are injured in the
performance of their duties their full salaries, generally, until they are able to return to work.
The firefighter or police officer’s benefits under 207-a or 207-c may be greater in comparison to

1
  We note that, while it is recommended throughout this report that policies and procedures relating to claims for
benefits under General Municipal Law Sections 207-a and 207-c be adopted, such policies and procedures may be
subject to collective bargaining principles under the Taylor Law (Civil Service Law, Article 14).




                                                        2
their normal salary because these benefits are exempt from State and Federal withholding taxes.
For example, if a firefighter or police officer’s salary was $48,600, his or her net salary is
approximately $32,500,2 whereas a firefighter or police officer receiving 207-a or 207-c benefits
could take home his or her full salary.

The City is responsible for developing an effective program for administering and monitoring
207-a and 207-c benefits for firefighters and police officers who are injured while performing
their duties. The City has contracted with a third party administrator (TPA) to process claims for
medical expenses incurred by firefighters and police officers resulting from injuries incurred in
the performance of their duties. The City also contracted with a local hospital (hospital) to
provide independent assessments of police officers’ reported injuries. In addition, in March
2007, the City hired a part-time medical control officer, who serves as the fire department
surgeon, to perform medical examinations of City firefighters. Prior to March 2007, the fire
department employed a department surgeon who was responsible for medical examination and
monitoring firefighters receiving 207-a benefits.

We reviewed internal controls over the City’s administration of its 207-a and 207-c benefits to
determine the adequacy of the processes used to approve, monitor and evaluate benefits paid
under these programs. We obtained an understanding of internal controls by inquiry and
inspection of documents in claimants’ files, payroll records, vendor payments and payments
made from the TPA. We also examined policies and procedures related to the 207-a and 207-c
processes. In addition, we reviewed the collective bargaining agreements and judgmentally
selected and reviewed claimants’ files maintained by the medical control units of each
department and by each department’s surgeon.

We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government
auditing standards (GAGAS). Those standards require that we plan and perform our audit to
obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Audit Results

The fire department lacked written policies and procedures resulting in firefighter applications
for benefits not being filed timely and $18,632 being paid for medical expenses prior to approval
of benefits. Also, the fire department surgeon is not adequately documenting actions taken to
monitor firefighters on leave, and is not providing adequate information to the fire
commissioner. We noted instances where time was lost because light duty was not used, where
light duty may have been appropriately employed. These instances accounted for 117 days lost
with estimated salary payments of $63,310. These payments may have been reduced had the
department surgeon personally evaluated the firefighters. City officials told us that the fire
departments medical control officer lacks sufficient staff to perform additional monitoring
functions such as home visits, routine surveillance or daily phone contact. We also found that
the police department surgeon relied upon statements made by the police officer’s physician

2
    Using a 33 percent factor that includes Federal, State, and FICA withholdings.




                                                            3
when making a determination about the date the officer is to return to work instead of making an
independent assessment. We noted instances of time lost where light duty was not used that
accounted for 270 days of lost work with an estimated salary paid of $74,695. These payments
may have been reduced had the police department surgeon examined the officers and determined
that injured officers were able to perform light duty.

Claims Approval Process

A good system of internal controls should provide written policies and systematic procedures for
reporting injuries and obtaining required documentation necessary to make an informed decision
regarding approval of 207-a and 207-c claims. We found that the fire department lacked written
policies and procedures which resulted in medical expenses being paid prior to approval of
benefits. The police department, however, has adequate policies and procedures in place.

Written Policies and Procedures – The fire department does not have a comprehensive written
policy that details the requirements for reporting injuries and obtaining relevant documentation
required to approve 207-a claims. Instead, the fire department uses the collective bargaining
agreements to administer the program. The agreements give the fire commissioner the authority
to determine eligibility for benefits, and set forth the procedures in the event a firefighter
disagrees with the decision. Additionally, the agreements establish general guidelines such as
reporting every Monday to the department surgeon and requiring treatment for all injuries during
the shift when the injury occurs. However, the agreements do not establish criteria for claims
approval nor do they incorporate the department practice of initiating 207-a benefits.
Furthermore, the agreements do not specifically require witness statements be obtained and
documented to support the firefighter’s claim. Additionally, the department has not developed
and implemented supplemental policies or procedures to clarify the language contained in the
collective bargaining agreements. The documentation obtained does not contain evidence in the
form of witness statements or medical treatment information that would allow the commissioner
to make an informed decision about the validity of a firefighter’s claim, which may result in non-
job related injury claims being approved for 207-a benefits.

The police department has established policies and procedures for documenting and reporting
injuries. These policies require detailed reports, witness statements, a supervisor’s report and
additional information such as arrest reports which are provided to the medical control unit as the
basis for approving the claim for benefits. The documentation required allows the medical
control officer to make an informed decision when approving 207-c benefits and the TPA does
not pay claims until after the 207-c benefits have been approved.

Filing Injury Reports – The fire department’s current practice is to have the firefighter’s
immediate supervisor complete the injury report which is faxed to the TPA by the medical
control officer. The injury report is only supposed to authorize payment for medical expenses
during the first five days following the incident. This gives the TPA authorization to pay for the
initial treatment and allows the firefighter to obtain needed medical treatment in a timely
manner. However, the current practice results in the risk that the department will pay for
medical expenses for a non-job related injury because authorization for payments of claim is
given prior to the 207-a approval. Subsequent to faxing the injury report, the firefighter is



                                                 4
supposed to file a 207-a application with the fire commissioner within 30 days of the date of
injury. Once approved, the 207-a application extends benefits beyond the initial five days.

We judgmentally selected 51 individuals from a population of approximately 296 firefighters
with injuries during 2005 and 2006 (some with multiple dates of injury comprising 62 dates of
injury) and reviewed the related 62 medical files to determine if the files contained injury
reports, 207-a applications, and 207-a approvals. We found injury reports in all the files
reviewed. However, we found 26 instances where the TPA paid $18,632 for medical expenses
after the initial five-day authorization period. This included 14 instances where the 207-a
applications were never filed and 12 instances where the 207-a applications were filed untimely
(after 30 days) but ultimately approved.

Unlike the fire department, the police department does not notify the TPA of an injury until after
it has approved the police officer for 207-c benefits. The police department’s approval process
entails the completion of an injury report, a witness/incident report, supervisor’s report and
documentation such as arrest reports substantiating the injury.

We selected and reviewed the files of 40 police officers (some with multiple injuries representing
47 injury dates) from a population of 312 police officers with injuries during 2005 and 2006 and
reviewed the 47 related medical files to determine if the police department maintained
documentation in accordance with its policy. We found that the 47 medical files contained
injury reports, witness/incident reports, and supervisor reports. There were two occasions where
the file was missing supervisor’s reports. The medical control officer stated that the documents
were filed in another officer’s file because the incident involved multiple officers. We found no
instances where the TPA paid for medical expenses without approval and no evidence to suggest
the injuries claimed were not job related.

Monitoring Claims

The GML requires firefighters and police officers to submit to medical examinations until it is
determined that they: are able to return to work and fully perform their duties, may return to
work with restrictions, or are permanently disabled and will never be able to return to their
duties. The law does not stipulate the frequency of such medical evaluations; therefore, it is the
responsibility of the fire and police departments to develop this requirement. The departments
have not established a timeframe for medical examinations. The department surgeons are
therefore responsible for determining the length of disability and monitoring benefit recipients.
The fire department surgeon is not sufficiently documenting the actions being taken to monitor
injured firefighters and is not providing the Commissioner with reports that would allow him to
make an informed decision on continuing benefits. The police department contracted with a
hospital to act as its department surgeon. We found the department surgeon relied on the opinion
of an officer’s personal physician to determine when an officer can return to work.

Department Surgeon – The department surgeon serves as an independent medical professional
who is in charge of monitoring the injured firefighter or police officer to verify that he or she is
making progress with the goal of returning to work. In this capacity, the department surgeon
must review records submitted by the officer’s personal physicians and periodically examine the
claimant to verify that the claimant’s condition and severity of the injury is as stated by the


                                                 5
officer’s personal physician. Additionally, the department surgeon must maintain appropriate
documentation to substantiate the decision regarding the ability of a firefighter or police officer
to return to work and to document what actions the surgeon has taken in monitoring the
claimant’s progress. The surgeon must also communicate findings and periodically update the
medical control unit so they can make a determination on continuing or terminating 207-a or
207-c benefits.

The contract with the department surgeon should specifically set forth the duties and
responsibilities that are required in executing the agreement. Additionally, it should require that
the department surgeon be independent. The agreement should also detail the type and frequency
of reporting to the department. Formal processes and procedures should specify what actions
must be documented and set forth those situations where the surgeon is required to communicate
information regarding a claim for 207-a or 207-c benefits.

We reviewed the medical files maintained by the fire department surgeon and found insufficient
documentation was available to determine if the department surgeon was adequately monitoring
individuals on 207-a leave. Of the 51 medical files reviewed, we found that 37 files did not
contain any evidence that the department surgeon personally evaluated the injured firefighter.
We also reviewed the log maintained by the department surgeon. We found the log did not
document what actions the surgeon took in monitoring the firefighter (e.g. contacted firefighter,
requested or received medical records, reviewed physicians findings, scheduled appointment.)
Therefore, it is possible that firefighters remained on 207-a benefits longer than necessary
resulting in increased costs to the City. This situation occurred because neither the fire
department nor the City Commissioner of Human Resources established appropriate procedures
that required the department surgeon to document the actions taken to monitor each firefighter
receiving 207-a benefits. In addition, the surgeon was not required to report his findings to the
fire commissioner. Without this information, the fire department cannot be sure that claims are
being adequately monitored and the fire commissioner is unable to make an informed decision
regarding the continuation or termination of 207-a benefits. This greatly increases the risk that
abuse may occur.

The police department surgeon is an employee of the hospital. The contract with the hospital
does not set forth the duties and responsibilities the department surgeon is required to perform.
Specifically, it does not explicitly state that the job of the department surgeon is to objectively
review and question those statements made by a claimant’s personal physician. Without an
objective medical opinion, there is an increased risk that the City will incur unnecessary lost time
and overtime cost and fraud, abuse or professional misconduct may occur and go unnoticed.

We reviewed the files maintained by the department surgeon to determine if he was adequately
monitoring police officers receiving 207-c benefits. We found that the surgeon relied upon
statements made by the police officer’s physician when making a determination about the date
the officer is to return to work instead of making an independent assessment. We reviewed the
case files for 15 individuals from the population of 47 files tested and found that on 13 occasions
the department surgeon did not perform independent assessments but instead released the
officers back to work only after receiving a medical release from the officer’s primary physician.
When questioned, the department surgeon indicated that when an officer has a note from a



                                                 6
specialist, it is not questioned. If the department surgeon had independently assessed the police
officers, it is possible they may have returned to work sooner.

Surveillance or Fraud Investigations – Another means by which cities can monitor 207-a and
207-c cases is to hire investigators to perform surveillance on the injured worker, to determine if
the worker’s activities were consistent with the extent of the injury limitations. Surveillance
could be performed by the medical control unit in the fire and police departments, or by private
investigators.

Some injuries are more difficult for doctors to analyze and determine the extent of mobility and
need for time away from work. In some cases surveillance could provide additional insight
concerning a claimant’s ability to return to work.

The fire department’s 207-a procedures are governed by the collective bargaining agreements.
The agreement does not contain provisions for monitoring such as routine surveillance, or daily
phone contact. In addition, with both a department surgeon and medical control officer there is
no single authority assigned the responsibility of monitoring an injured firefighter on leave. We
interviewed the fire commissioner and medical control officer to determine if they were
performing routine contact or surveillance and determined that the department does not currently
perform surveillance of injured firefighters. However, firefighters are required to call in to the
department surgeon every Monday. The medical control officer does not have staff assigned to
him to be able to perform the additional function of surveillance or home visits. Performing
surveillance could mitigate the risk of abuse from occurring and reduce the number of lost days
and overtime expenses incurred by the department.

The police department has established a policy whereby police officers receiving 207-c benefits
are required to remain at their residence during the hours they would have been working and are
subject to home visits and routine phone calls from supervisory officers. We reviewed the
records and determined that the medical control unit contacts those officers on leave on a daily
basis to ensure that they comply with the policy. In addition, the medical control unit, with the
help of the internal affairs division, periodically performs home visits. A monthly memo is sent
to the police commissioner detailing the home visits performed. As a result, the medical control
unit has ensured strict adherence to the departments policy and lessened the risk of abuse
occurring.

Closing Claims

GML provides that benefits will cease if a physician determines that the claimant is capable of
returning to work either at full or light duty. Light duty must be consistent with the claimant’s
regular duties. It is the fire and police departments’ responsibility to pursue any claims of ability
to return to work. Generally, the claimant’s personal doctor, an independent medical examiner
or the department surgeon will make these claims. We found instances where light duty was not
used. In the fire department, the department surgeon did not personally evaluate these cases.
The police department surgeon only released these individuals after the officer’s personal
physician released them instead of independently assessing the individual’s capability for light
duty



                                                  7
The fire and police departments should actively monitor the results of all medical examinations.
If a physician determines the claimant is able to return to work, the department should take
appropriate actions to get the claimant back to work as soon as possible. If a physician believes
that the disability will prohibit the claimant from ever being able to return as a firefighter or
police officer, an application for disability retirement should be made. We found that the fire
department did not initiate the retirement process when indicated, whereas, the police department
actively monitors those individuals and initiates the retirement process as soon as it is apparent
an officer cannot return to work.

Use of Light Duty – If the municipal health authorities or the municipality's appointed physician
indicates that the injured firefighter or police officer is able to perform specified types of light
duty work, and the employer offers such light duty work but the firefighter or police officer
refuses the offer, then the firefighter or police officer may no longer be entitled to payment of his
or her full salary.3 Any offer of light duty that is made must be consistent with the injured
employee’s status as either a firefighter or a police officer, and must enable him or her to
continue to receive his or her regular salary or wages.

According to the fire department’s rules and regulations, firefighters can receive light duty
assignments. During our testing, we noted several instances where the fire department did not
use light duty assignments under circumstances where light duty, potentially, may have been
appropriate. We reviewed medical files of 51 firefighters and found three such cases. The cases
involved injuries to hands and time lost was between 28 and 47 days. For these three cases, the
total days lost were 117 days, for which the firefighters received full salary of $61,310. In each
case, we noted that the department surgeon did not personally examine these individuals and
failed to monitor the firefighter’s progress. The GML authorizes the department to have the
municipal health authorities or the municipality's appointed physician, among other things,
examine an injured firefighter to determine the firefighter’s degree of disability and his or her
ability to perform light duty. In the absence of such a medical examination and opinion by the
municipality's physician, the department may have missed opportunities for making light duty
assignments, as provided for in its rules and regulations. As a result, the fire department may
have expended monies for full salaries and overtime wages to other firefighters to cover the days
lost, when the firefighter may have been capable of performing some type of light duty. By fully
utilizing the authority for medical examinations by the department's physician, the department
may also be able to discourage potential abuse of the program.

According to police department policy, the department surgeon is responsible for determining
fitness for duty. However, the department has not implemented any supplemental policies or
procedures that specifically address the availability of light duty. For example, the policy does
not stipulate that light duty should be used whenever the department surgeon, after medical
examination, is of the opinion that the officer is capable of performing light duty.4 The police
department has used light duty; however, during our testing we noted several instances where
light duty assignments were not used, under circumstances where light duty potentially may have
been appropriate. We reviewed 47 files and found eight such instances. For example, there were

3
  Before benefits may be suspended under General Municipal Law Section 207-a or 207–c, a hearing may be
required as a matter of due process. The local government should consult with its attorney on that issue.
4
  See note 1, supra.



                                                    8
four injuries involving fingers with leave time between 17 and 45 days, three wrist injuries with
leave time between 42 and 50 days and one eye injury, seven days. The above eight cases
resulted in a total of 270 days of lost work in which the officers received full salary estimated at
$74,695, which does not include the amounts paid for overtime to other police officers to cover
the days lost. In each of these eight instances, the department surgeon returned the officers back
to work, only after receiving clearance from the officer’s personal physician.         By not fully
using the authority for medical examinations by the department's surgeon to determine whether
injured officers is able to perform light duty, the department may be spending more money than
necessary in paying the full salaries of the injured police officers who may be able to perform
light duty, in addition to overtime wages to cover their line of duty leaves.

Disability Retirement – If medical examinations determine that the claimant is permanently
disabled, he or she should apply for disability retirement. According to GML Section 207-c, an
officer is no longer entitled to his or her full salary if he or she gets approved for accidental
disability retirement, performance of duty disability retirement or other similar accidental
disability retirement (disability retirement). Whereas under GML Section 207-a, a firefighter
would receive, in addition to disability retirement, compensation from the City in an amount
equal to the difference between the firefighter’s full salary and his or her disability retirement.
The claimant (or the department on his behalf) has the option to apply for different types of
disability retirements offered by the NYS Retirement System. These different retirement options
offer the potentially permanently disabled claimant approximately 33 to 75 percent of their final
average salary. Because of the lower benefit amounts, the claimant may not want to apply;
however, it becomes the department’s responsibility to determine when it is in the best interest of
the City to apply for disability retirement for the claimant. The claimant or the department can
apply for disability retirement at any time and there is no deadline.

The fire department’s collective bargaining agreements and regulations are silent as to who is
responsible for ensuring that those firefighters who are disabled file for the appropriate disability
retirement. Currently, the department does not monitor or submit applications for disability
retirement when it is determined a firefighter will no longer be able to work in the capacity of a
firefighter. The firefighter is responsible for submitting the application, but the department has
not established a policy or procedure that would require the firefighter to file. During our audit
period, the department had six firefighters on leave that filed for retirement. The timeframe for
applications being filed ranged from two to 16 months. If the department was monitoring the
firefighter’s progress, applications may have been submitted sooner, resulting in quicker
approval. The department could have saved $3,2005 per month for each firefighter once the
injured firefighter retired.

Firefighters who receive performance of duty disability retirement receive 50 percent of their
salaries. Under GML, the City is required to supplement the disability received with another 50
percent so the firefighter receives his or her full salary. The department is only responsible for
50 percent of the firefighter’s salary, once the performance of duty disability retirement is


5
  Assuming a firefighter received retirement of fifty percent of his final salary. The City’s responsibility would be
the remaining fifty percent of the firefighter’s salary. Using an estimated monthly salary of $6,400, the department
would be responsible for $3,200.



                                                         9
approved, thus reducing costs to the City. So filing the paper work to initiate the performance of
duty disability retirement is a first step towards cost savings for the City.

Unlike the fire department, the police department reviews each case individually to determine
when an officer will be able to return to work. We interviewed appropriate personnel regarding
individuals on long-term leave to determine when and if application for disability had been filed.
We found that the department had 22 officers on leave that filed for retirement. The timeframe
for applications being filed ranged from three to 20 months. We reviewed 47 files maintained by
the medical control unit and determined that they receive timely duty status reports which
informs the unit of an officer’s medical status so they can determine when it is appropriate to
submit for retirement. We determined that the medical control unit has ensured that officers
unable to return to work have the appropriate paperwork to file for retirement disability or file
the paperwork for the police officer. Once retired, the department is not required to hold the
officer’s position open, nor are they responsible to pay the officers full salary. Filing the
paperwork ensures that the department is working to keep costs down.

Recommendations

   1. Subject to any applicable collective bargaining principles, fire department officials
      should develop written policies and procedures that detail the documentation required to
      be submitted for a 207-a application and establish criteria for determining if it will accept
      or deny a firefighter’s 207-a application.

   2. Fire department officials should notify the TPA of injuries occurring after a firefighter
      has been approved for 207-a benefits.

   3. Police department officials in the medical control unit should ensure that reports
      involving multiple officers are filed in each officer’s file.

   4. Subject to any applicable collective bargaining principles, the Commissioner of Human
      Resources should implement processes and procedures, establishing the documentation to
      be maintained by the fire department surgeon and establishing a system for reporting
      information to the medical control officer.

   5. Subject to any applicable collective bargaining principles, city officials should ensure that
      written agreements specifically set forth the duties and responsibilities of the police
      department surgeon.

   6. Subject to any applicable collective bargaining principles, fire department officials
      should implement policies which establish when surveillance will be used and to what
      extent and ensure that the medical control officer has sufficient staff to implement
      policies effectively.

   7. Fire department officials should designate the medical control officer to be responsible
      for monitoring injured firefighters and ensure that appropriate staff is available to assist
      with this.



                                                10
   8. Subject to any applicable collective bargaining principles, fire department officials
      should establish a timeframe for firefighters to be examined by the department surgeon to
      determine if the firefighter can return to work, either fully or with some restrictions.

   9. Police department officials should send officers back to work if either the officer’s
      personal physician or a department surgeon determines light or full duty is appropriate.

   10. The fire department’s medical control officer should monitor firefighters on 207-a leave
       and file the appropriate disability paperwork as soon as it is determinable he or she is
       incapable of performing their duties.

The City Council has the responsibility to initiate corrective action. Pursuant to Section 35 of the
General Municipal Law, the City Council should prepare a plan of action that addresses the
recommendations in this report and forward the plan to our office within 90 days. For guidance
in preparing your plan of action, you may refer to applicable sections in the publication issued by
the Office of the State Comptroller entitled Local Government Management Guide. We
encourage the City Council to make this plan available for public review in the City Clerk’s
office.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Newburgh Regional Office at 845-567-
0858.
                                                        Sincerely,



                                                             Steven J. Hancox
                                                             Deputy Comptroller
                                                             Office of the State Comptroller
                                                             Division of Local Government and
                                                             School Accountability




                                                 11
                                        APPENDIX A

                        RESPONSE FROM CITY OFFICIALS

The City officials’ response to this audit can be found on the following pages.

The City’s response letter refers to page numbers that appeared in the draft report. The page
numbers have changed during the formatting of this final report.




                                                12
13
     See
     Note 1
     Page 17




     See
     Note 1
     Page 17




     See
     Note 1
     Page 17




14
     See
     Note 2
     Page 17




     See
     Note 3
     Page 17




     See
     Note 4
     Page 17




     See
     Note 5
     Page 18




     See
     Note 6
     Page 18




15
16
                                        APPENDIX B

                 OSC COMMENTS ON THE CITY’S RESPONSE
Note 1

We have amended our report based upon the information submitted.

Note 2

We do not agree with the City’s assertion that the municipal/fire district physician should avoid
overruling the opinion of a treating physician. Pursuant to General Municipal Law, sections 207-
a and -c, “…the municipal health authorities or any physician appointed for the purpose by the
municipality [or the fire district], may attend any such injured or sick [fireman or policeman],
from time to time, for the purpose of providing medical, surgical or other treatment, or for
making inspections….” Based upon this language, the City has authority to employ a physician
to conduct physical examinations and to provide independent medical opinions concerning the
ability of those officers receiving 207-a or 207-c benefits to perform full or light duty work (see,
e.g., Matter of McGowan v Fairview Fire District, 823 NYS2d 649, 14 Misc 3d 270; Matter of
Park v Kapica, et al., 8 NY3d 302, 864 NE2d 1284; City of Watertown v State public
Employment Relations Board, 95 NY2d 73, 733 NE2d 171). The absence of an independent
medical examination and an independent medical opinion from the department surgeons
increases the risk that the City is paying 207-a or 207-c benefits for officers who are capable of
returning to work. Therefore, in order to properly monitor injured officers, the City should
require the department surgeons to provide an independent medical examination and an
independent medical opinion of those officers receiving 207-a and 207-c benefits.

Note 3

In order to ensure that injured firefighters receiving 207-a benefits are being properly monitored,
a timeframe should be established, subject to any applicable collective bargaining principles, for
firefighters to be examined by the medical control officer to determine their ability to return to
work. We believe that establishing such a timeframe helps to ensure that files are properly
monitored and claimants are released to return to work as soon as possible. This helps to prevent
the payment of 207-a benefits to firefighters who are capable of performing full or light duty
work.

Note 4

We believe the purpose of GML §§207-a and 207-c is to get the injured worker back to
performing some type of work since both provisions authorize the suspension of benefits where
light duty is offered and refused.




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Note 5

Light duty should be used when the personal physician or independent medical examiner
determines it is appropriate and it is anticipated that the individual will return to his/her normal
duties. It should not be used as a temporary work assignment for an employee awaiting a
decision regarding disability retirement. It should be used for an employee that is expected to
return to work, and would benefit from a less rigorous working environment while recuperating
from injury. Therefore, if used properly, light duty is a means of discouraging abuse.

Note 6

We have redacted the names of the employees for confidentiality reasons.




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