Berousek earns an estimated $73,000 tax-free in Wisconsin
Posted: July 25, 2010 |(135) Comments
North Shore Fire Chief David Berousek announced earlier this year that he was leaving his post and applying for duty disability because of a heart attack that he suffered last year.
In February, the state approved Berousek's application for disability pay, clearing the way for him to stay home while earning an estimated $73,000 in tax-free income a year because it was determined that he had suffered a work-related injury.
But the 54-year-old veteran administrator is not staying home.
Berousek is working for a consulting firm that conducted a study of Berousek's agency a few years back.
In that role, he is now back where he started - as chief for a fire department.
Only now he is doing this on a temporary basis for six communities just outside Houston.
"Welcome Interim Fire Chief Dave Berousek," says the Hedwig Village, Texas, website. "Chief Berousek was installed as the Interim Chief on Monday, June 21, 2010."
Under the arrangement, the Village Fire Department in Texas is paying Illinois-based McGrath Consulting Group $8,500 a month for Berousek to serve as interim chief and to help conduct a performance audit of the 50-person agency. The firm is overseeing the search for a new chief.
No Quarter was alerted to Berousek's arrangement in response to a recent column on the duty disability case of former Milwaukee cop Dave Orlowski. The ex-officer is paid more than $50,000 in tax-free income a year because he is considered "permanently and totally incapacitated for duty," yet the 54-year-old has now completed 10 triathlons in the past 1½ years.
Berousek, who lives in Cedarburg, said he doesn't expect his new job to last but for a few months - until a permanent chief is selected. News stories have estimated that this will occur in September or October. He said he doesn't want the permanent post.
Reached at his new fire department, Berousek said he was uniquely qualified for this short-term assignment because he helped oversee the North Shore Fire Department, which provides service to seven suburban communities just north of Milwaukee. He ran the department from its inception in 1995 to earlier this year.
He declined to say how much of the $8,500 monthly retainer he gets to keep.
"That's my business," said Berousek, who worked as a firefighter and administrator in Wisconsin for 20 years. "I'm no longer a public employee."
As for working full time just months after being declared disabled by the state, Berousek emphasized that he is in a low-stress job. He said Wisconsin law presumes that heart attacks are job-related in duty disability cases.
In his current post, he said, he is mainly reviewing and analyzing records and working at his desk. He is not making runs to fires or accident scenes, as was sometimes required in his North Shore job. His main task, he noted, is finishing an audit of the consolidated fire department and recommending improved management techniques.
"I wasn't going to put my health in jeopardy, nor am I trying to scam the system," Berousek said. "You know, I'm living."
To emphasize his point, he said he plans to tell the state all about this extra income at the end of the year. He also said he believes his disability pay will be offset, dollar for dollar, by any money he earns from the consulting firm.
Matt Stohr, spokesman for the state Department of Employee Trust Funds, said there is a complicated formula that reduces a disabled person's monthly payments by a fraction of their outside income. The offset increases from a third of outside earnings up to two-thirds of those funds, depending on how much a person earns while on duty disability.
According to the formula, for instance, Berousek's disability payments would be reduced by about $18,000 a year if he pulls in $50,000 from the consulting company this year. That would put his combined annual income at $105,000.
That's only about $7,000 more a year than what he made at the North Shore Fire Department, said Robert Whitaker, the current chief. The big difference is half of his current pay would not be taxable.
In addition, Stohr said, state rules require those on duty disability to report to the state within 30 days of receiving any outside pay, something that Berousek hasn't done. Just to make sure all outside income is reported, the state also requires disabled workers to provide all W-2 tax forms at the end of the year.
"It does happen where it's not reported in that 30 days," Stohr said.
Berousek said he was familiar with the consulting company because it is run by Tim McGrath, a retired Brookfield Fire Department chief. Berousek said he has been working for the firm for about a year.
McGrath conducted an analysis of the North Shore Fire Department in 2005, 10 years after it merged the seven previously separate departments. Whitaker, the current chief, said he couldn't immediately say how much the firm was paid, and Berousek said he was not responsible for the contract.
Asked if he plans to stay with the consulting company once his stint in Texas is completed, Berousek said, "Should there be something of interest, I will."
He emphasized that he had no interest in running another fire department, even though he was a finalist to head the Bothell Fire Department in Washington last fall, several months after his heart attack and before his retirement.
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Thread: Should this be a crime?
07-27-2010, 09:12 AM #1
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
Should this be a crime?
07-27-2010, 09:20 AM #2
- Join Date
- May 2005
In my city if you are off on disability workers comp monitors you. If you can work else wheres you either come back to work or you are terminated.
07-27-2010, 09:47 AM #3
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
I just don’t get how you can say you are disabled and can’t work as a fire chief and then take the same position just a few weeks latter? I have a hard time believing his old job is much different then his new job. I bet he did not go on calls at his old job or his new job.
I’m not saying disabled people should not work, it’s just that in this case, it appears that he is scamming the system. I wonder if he is getting his health insurance paid by his old department. If he had a change in health status, he should take the new job and suspend his disability benefits. This would allow him to work like he wants to but also not drain his former employer. He also says he is not a public employee? What ever spin he wants to put on it, a fire chief is a public employee?
07-27-2010, 10:43 AM #4
I think he is saying he is not a public employee because he is not being paid directly out of public funds. It appears he is working for and being paid by a private consulting firm.
I think this is as much a problem with the "system" as it is anything else. Simply put, if a "disabled" person is able to earn income, technically he is not disabled. Therefore, any pay he is earning as a disabled person should be reduced by whatever other income he is able to actually work for.
I do not believe this should be illegal, as I can see how someone might not want to sit around and do nothing. In fact, this could be a good thing in that if a person chooses to accept other work and his diability income could be reduced there would be a savings and those funds could be used for others retirements, pensions or anyone who may find themselves actually disabled.
07-27-2010, 11:07 AM #5
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
Technically if a disabled person is able to earn an income he or she is still disabled. Disability is not a classification based income. An individual in a wheel chair or with the loss of a leg that earns an income is still disabled.
I agree that working is a good thing, as long as the employment does not contradict with your injury. It is possible that injuries heal, and in that case, if the individual is able to gain similar employment with no health issues or set backs he or she should be able to do so.
If this is the case and he can resume as a fire chief, why does he not declare himself cured and able to perform, thus not taking any disability payments or have any offsets. It appears he is taking benefits as well as working a part time job that is the same as his old job for extra income.
07-27-2010, 11:56 AM #6
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee
DISCLAIMER: I have no stake in this since I am not a North Shore resident, or firefighter, and I do not work for the consulting company.
Why do you care? What is your axe to grind with this? I would really like to know the answer to those questions. Because it just sounds like sour grapes from you. Please do enlighten us.“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” Leo F. Buscaglia
This place gets weirder and weirder every day...
07-27-2010, 11:59 AM #7
If this were the case I think an amicable solution would simply be to reduce any income from the previous department by whatever his current income is. This way him and his family would not suffer a decline in their standard of living.
In any case he should be honest with his previous department.
07-27-2010, 01:27 PM #8
- Join Date
- Mar 2004
- Memphis Tn,USA-now
I broke my leg(Left tibia plateau,if it matters) falling from a barge covertop in May 2008.In January 2009,the doctor that put in the pins,plates and 87 stitches(I counted as they came out) declared that I was healed and as I stood corrected,my job cut the maintenance and cure payments for me.
I've contacted a lawyer about the case but it is still pending and I have bills to pay.I'm working but it's just bringing in eating money.
It isn't easy being out of work because of an injury and then can't find work due to the economy which was prjected to have recovered by now.
I have no problem with this guy or anyone else who is recovering from an injury working as they are able to.I am sure that the IRS and his state's revenue collectors will take care of him if he is scamming the system.
Workman's comp cheaters are handled "sans humanitie" when they are caught.
07-27-2010, 02:18 PM #9
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- Jun 2008
07-27-2010, 04:21 PM #10
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
My old boss e-mailed me the article and I thought I would comment on it. I surf these pages but rarely leave my opinion but i'm going to start now that I have some free time.
I was disabled from the Police Department in June of 2006 and had to step down as a volunteer firefighter. My injury occurred on duty and I qualified for permanent disability benefits per CA requirements. I can’t be a cop or a fireman ever again and I dealt with that fact. I started back to work as an elementary teacher this year and although I do not enjoy it as much as my old job, I am happy with what I do and I get the summer off!
Should everyone that gets hurt on the job and goes on disability go out and get another job, no, but if a guy is going to collect file for disability and then do the same job somewhere, he should not be able to benefit from his apparent dishonesty. There are two sides to every story and I hope there is some sort of information that was left out. I think this story is just at its surface and their will be more to come.
It appears that this guy is playing the system and he is devaluing the disability program and tarnishing his and his family’s name in trying to make an extra buck. It makes me wonder if he is willing to do this, what type of misconduct possibly occurred when he was in office in his old job?
I might be off base and all my statements are based on the above article and other feedback and comments on the issue. If more information comes out, I will comment on it.
07-28-2010, 10:22 AM #11
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
At Least you're being upfront with your reasons for bringing this up, which is commendable. Sometimes folks come on here and stir with malicious intent, but refuse to discuss their reasoning, which I think was the reason behind the question to you. And, If I had to give up Firefighting, I have no clue what I'd do, nothing else out there even comes close.........Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
In memory of
Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006
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I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.
07-29-2010, 04:23 AM #12
My grave was dug a long time ago... My old turn-out coat is already there waiting for me.
The point is... I have always been a firefighter, and will always be a firefighter.
Three times the doctors told me I was done. Twice my pension was threatened. Once I kicked a guys butt for telling me I was too old.
The day I can't do this, is the day I wear that old coat.
I have been on short term disabilty. I had a long recovery years ago when I was trying to regrow skin and hair and learning to walk again. The insurance company cut me off after 90 days and it took 5 years to beat the crap out of them. It was worth it even though I was finding it difficult to feed the kids, pay the bills and pay the doctors. It was the last time the Union let me down. I did maintain my dignity and did not sell my soul. Insurance Companies do not like me... the feeling is mutual.
I could collect disability right now. I have so many battle issues they could write a new book about it. But I like what I do, and that is worth a lot more than sitting around getting stale.
I don't know what this guys situation is. Does it look bad? Yeah. It even stinks. But until someone can prove something and convict him, what we think does not matter. I am sure he could care less what we think.
I won't beat him up over this until I see the dirt. We work our whole life just so we can die with some pride and personal items left. So what if some of that personal stuff is money.HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL
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