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Clerical Blunder: Will It Affect County Law Suit?
By John Millrany - February 16, 2001

A "clerical or administrative mistake" could be a pivotal point of contention in a $200,000-plus health-benefits suit filed by a Ventura County (CA) sheriff’s deputy who retired because of a job-related accident.

Mark Englander, 39, of Moorpark alleges in the suit that the county agreed to offer a lifetime health-benefits package for injured officers as a condition of accepting federal community block grants. According to Englander’s attorney, Dan Sheldon, "(County officials) certified to the federal government that they were complying with the law, offering the lifetime health benefit. Even though they accepted all the (grant) money, they are refusing to pay," Sheldon was quoted in the Los Angeles Daily News.

The county contends it never meant to agree to lifelong benefits for injured deputies. In order to receive federal grants totaling about $70,000 a year, the county had to certify that it would offer continued health insurance benefits to officers who were injured at work and forced to retire. If they chose not to offer the continued health benefits, they would receive 90% of the funding. The county maintains it would be willing to return 10% of the grant money if necessary.

"We made a mistake—a clerk simply submitted the wrong form," Leroy Smith, a litigation supervisor for Ventura County, told adjustercom.com. Dismissing the contention that the county was somehow chicanerous, Smith said, "We can’t by accident create a medical plan—that could be extremely expensive. If we are wrong, we will have to give back the 10%."

Smith explained that funds from the community block grants have been used to support the county’s specialized Drug Court, a collaborative effort dedicated to alternative ways in prosecuting drug violators. Participating agencies include Ventura’s Human Services Agency, Sheriff’s Department, Probation Agency, Courts and the District Attorney’s Office.

 
 

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