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Lantigua Takes Medical Benefits, Will Terminate Hero Firefighter

By: Tom Duggan – Nov. 27, 2012

Lawrence Firefighter Tim Atwood

 ”Is this how we treat firefighters who put their lives on the line? I mean, I live in Lawrence. I have all my life. I served my country and when I came out of the service I chose to serve my community. This is the thanks I get.” ~ Lawrence Firefighter Tim Atwood

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua has scheduled a termination hearing for Lawrence Firefighter Tim Atwood on Wednesday, claiming he is incapable of doing the job duties required of all firefighters.

Atwood was injured in the line of duty back in January, when his doctor says that diesel fumes from the South Broadway fire station (Ladder 4) caused lung damage and breathing problems, making it impossible for him to fight fires. Atwood initially said he did not want to go out on disability, but wanted instead to be reassigned to “fire alarm” (answering phones and doing other light firefighting duties.)

“They didn’t want to make a reasonable accommodation, and at first, put me in for disability and early retirement. It was strange. I didn’t want to get paid to stay home, there are things I can still do on the fire department and I wanted to keep working,” Atwood says.

But Mayor Lantigua and his administration not only denied Atwood the transfer to Fire Alarm to accommodate his illness, he forced Atwood to use his sick and vacation time while he ran out the clock, scheduling and canceling hearing after hearing till Atwood’s accrued benefit time ran out.

“First they say I can’t transfer, as they wanted to get rid of me with disability and early retirement. Fine, under the Heart and Lung Act they could have put me on disability and then early retirement. I would rather work in some capacity as a firefighter but if that’s not what they wanted to do, I have to pay my mortgage and I have three kids so what choice do I have?”

But Atwood says what happened next was nothing short of amazing.

“Instead of moving forward with my disability or early retirement, they denied me disability, they denied me early retirement, and then they billed me for my medical insurance coverage. Now they are trying to fire me.”   

The City of Lawrence stopped Atwood’s paycheck and stopped paying his medical insurance, forcing him to go on unemployment and file for MassHealth so he could get medical treatment for his lung problems. 

“I don’t get it, I really don’t,” a despondent Atwood said.

“There’s a Deputy Police Chief who was indicted and he is still getting paid. I’m injured, I have letters from Doctors saying I can do light duty, and I want to work. But, they take away my benefits, stop my paycheck before I’m even fired, force me onto MassHealth, send me a bill and now they are trying to fire me saying I cannot do any job duties as a firefighter. Is this how we treat firefighters who put their lives on the line? I mean, I live in Lawrence. I have all my life. I served my country and when I came out of the service I chose to serve my community. This is the thanks I get?”

A History of Service and Putting his Life on the Line

Tim Atwood served his country in both the U.S. Army (from 1982 to 1986), and the U.S. Navy (from 1989 to 1996.)

He has been awarded The Peacetime Army Accommodation Medal, The Army Achievement Medal, The Navy Achievement  Medal, and both the Army and Navy Good Conduct Medals. He had been stationed in Korea and Panama and was honorably discharged.

He became a Lawrence Firefighter in 2004.

“I took the test, passed all the physicals and was deemed physically fit by the city to do the job when they hired me,” Atwood tells the Valley Patriot. “And I have been doing that job for the last nine years.”

Doctor’s Checkoff list outlining that Atwood is capable of doing light duty, which the city denied.

Workplace Hazard

But Atwood says that a problem at the South Broadway fire station caused him lung problems because the fire apparatus at the Ladder 4 station was not properly hooked up to a primal vent at the time. 

“We need the primal vents in the station for the diesel fumes. I had been feeling sick at work a lot and had scheduled a doctor’s appointment, but the night before my appointment I had worked a 24 hour shift and was having hard time breathing. My Acting Lieutenant told me I should call the deputy and request to go home, but I had an appointment in Boston right after my shift, so I went to the appointment instead.”

That day, Atwood’s doctor wrote a note to Fire Chief Bergeron saying he was injured in the line of duty, automatically making him eligible for 111F disability benefits. But the Lantigua administration decided to fire him instead.

“I have all the medical documents. I did everything that was required of me. They kept making me go back to doctors, scheduling hearings and then canceling them, and all the while making me use up all of my accrued time (sick and vacation).”

“I don’t know who I pissed off, or what is going on behind the scenes but, this isn’t right.  It just isn’t right. I have kids. I have a mortgage. And after my years of service they basically are throwing me out into the streets and saying, ‘screw you.’”

 

Letter from Chief Bergeron saying Atwood is permanently disabled and unable to work at Fire Alarm, while also offering him the fire alarm job as a civilian dispatcher which is a significant reduction in pay and benefits.

Atwood says, to add insult to injury,  the city is claiming on the one hand that he can’t work as a dispatcher at Fire Alarm on Bodwell Street (doing light duty), but on the other hand, Chief Bergeron sent Atwood a letter saying that if he resigned as a firefighter he could be hired back as a civilian dispatcher at the same facility, (doing the same job with fewer benefits and a major reduction in pay).

Documents obtained by the Valley Patriot back Atwood’s claim of lung problems, disability eligibility and the runaround he has received at the hands of the Lantigua administration.

“At first I wanted to work,” Atwood says.

“I didn’t want to collect a check for not working, I can answer phones, there are things I can do on the department but they won’t let me. If they give me ILD benefits, the law says they will have to put me on early retirement and they just don’t want to do that.”

“Why can’t the mayor say to the fire chief  ’put him at fire alarm’ and then this whole thing will be over? They are paying indicted cops to stay home but they don’t want to pay me to work? It’s almost surreal! I can’t believe this is happening.”

Atwood will stand before a hearing officer chosen by Mayor Lantigua on Wednesday morning at 10am, in City Council Chambers on Common Street in Lawrence.

The Valley Patriot will post a full report after Wednesday’s hearing. 

 

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Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan is president and publisher of The Valley Patriot Newspaper in North Andover Massachusetts, a former Lawrence School Committeeman, former political director for Mass. Citizens Alliance, a 1990 Police Survivor and hosts the Paying Attention! Radio Program on 980WCAP in Lowell, Massachusetts. You can email your comments to valleypatriot@aol.com.

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47 Responses to Lantigua Takes Medical Benefits, Will Terminate Hero Firefighter

  1. E.E.Sewell Reply

    November 27, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    More of the usual bulls**t from Hizzonor….

  2. ANDY Reply

    November 27, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    With everything I have read this has to be “Discrimination” Would the FBI please hurry up with that rock solid indictment & put this BUM away for good or is the reason he’s not in jail because your just as corrupt as he is!!!!!!

  3. Carlos Reply

    November 27, 2012 at 7:37 PM

    And when is Lantigua going to terminate himself?

      • E.E.Sewell Reply

        November 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM

        I’m ad this s***bag isn’t in MY city and my thoughts & prayers go uot to this hard-working firefighter and his family.

  4. Pingback: Termination Hearing for Lawrence Firefighter Tim Atwood | The Valley Patriot

  5. Laura Pallazola Reply

    November 28, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    It’s a sorry day when the city of Lawrence is being ruined by a ” no comment”, no decency, no morality Mayor and Beacon Hill remains mute. This injustice follows so many I have stopped counting. Mr Atwood needs a good lawyer to represent him pro bono. Are there any heros left out there. Or do we continue to live in the “Wild Wild West” aka Lawrence. Lantigua how do you sleep at night with yourself.

  6. Tim Roesch Reply

    November 28, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    So, anyone heard from a union?

  7. Mofongoconcaldo Reply

    November 29, 2012 at 3:48 PM

    It just slays me to hear a bunch of white people calling Lantigua racist! I smell white fright. So when blacks and latinos were legally barred from gaining entry into the fire department how many of you were calling for an end to injustice and racism. This guy has a union, probably as corrupt as Lantigua. It is unlikely i could perform the job of a firefighter, so props to them. I can’t imagine the bravery it takes to calmly enter a burning building. The gratitude of those souls rescued from harm. I also think that the firefighters, this one included, would risk their own lives to save Mayor Lantigua. He has a mortgage to pay. And so do the town’s citizens who deserve a fully functioning employee who could be reassigned in an emergency to fight fires and notnjust answer the phone. Sad, yes. Newsworthy, no. But the heated response from commenters makes me want to read more. Regarding the policeman under indictment and collecting…Two wrongs don’t make a right. I’m sure you tell your kids that. Haven’t been to lawrence in years. I can tell you that Beacon Hill doesn’t ignore you guys. They just pay your bills for you. How about some gratitude to your fellow citizens for bailing out your wrecked city. Btw, i know from wrecked cities, cuz i live in Lynn.

    • ANDY Reply

      December 4, 2012 at 11:58 AM

      Mofongoconcaldo How can you call us racist white trash! Were where we when the Africans and Latino’s were being stopped at the front door. Let me give you a history lesson. It wasn’t them that were stopped but it was white Americans that were stopped thank’s to affirmative action yes we went to school paid attention graduated took a test for a job scored a 98 and we were told sorry but that African & Latino got the job with a score of 72 and were Racist. Maybe the reason you don’t see that many in the field is because you actually have to work. And let me tell you about my corrupt UNION were i work my ass off. Were fair if you have a High-school diploma we’ll give you a shot but the truth is 98% of all minorities male & female are there for a free ride they don’t have any tools they stand around talk on the phone and when there let go for performance issues there back on the job the next day for screaming!!! Racism all the while making exactly the same money as me. Maybe the next time you post you’l actually know what the fuk your talking about Andy

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  9. integrity1st Reply

    December 4, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    RELAX EVERYBODY. everything is going to be AOK: “Atwood will stand before a hearing officer chosen by Mayor Lantigua”

  10. Nixon Reply

    December 4, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    It is truly interesting how the corrupt and criminal tactics and acts of one man can divide races! If we spent half the time trying to combat and take down Lantigua as we do at each others throats, maybe WE could control the path Lawrence goes down. But it seems that our white population is content pretending that they are the only bright spot Lawrence still has, and our Latino population is happy being ignorant. We are both to blame. We are all complacent except for a few outspoken doers. Join up to take this scumbag down. He is literally laughing while we stand behind an invisible barrier of laziness, anger, fear, and complacency. It takes a village. We know who the problem is and we need to make him and everyone close to him uncomfortable and accountable. I hope that Mr. Atwood is given his just due. He seems an honest and hardworking civil servant. Lantigua will defraud you black, brown, or white. When we kick his ass out of here, then we can get back to the business of living.

  11. Sammy Reply

    December 8, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    Several items in this story are fishy, first the system is plymo-vent, that doesn’t mean anything exposure to diesel exhaust and breathing issues are proven to require prolonged exposure, not a brief timeframe. Second, to be placed on 111 f, requires that a city appointed physician designate the disability, and if not them Mr Atwood would be able to contest the designation. Lastly there is quite a bit more to this, the union is very quiet, something more to the story.

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  13. Ray Reply

    December 13, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    Lantigua All Day

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