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Penn Township commissioners OK benefits agreement

Penn Township commissioners have approved an agreement that governs medical benefits being paid to spouses of deceased police officers.

The agreement calls for the spouse of a deceased officer to receive medical benefits until the person reaches the age of Medicare eligibility, which was the position of the police department and was supported by an arbitrator.

Township officials contend the collective bargaining agreement stipulates such benefits be provided to a deceased officer’s spouse for five years after the officer’s death. The township appealed the decision to Commonwealth Court. After arguments were presented, terms were agreed upon in which the township will provide medical benefits as directed by the arbitrator.

“We followed what the arbitrator ruled,” said Bruce Light, township manager. “We have to provide medical benefits until the widow reaches Medicare age. We felt as though the contract clearly said we would only have to pay for five years after the death of an officer. (The police) interpreted it differently, as did an arbitrator.”

The subject matter came to light in October 2009 concerning health coverage for Tina Gillen. Her husband Jeff, a township officer from 1998 until 2007, died of cancer Sept. 9, 2009, at the age of 37. Meetings concerning the length of coverage she should receive attracted several township officers and Fraternal Order of Police representatives.

Sgt. Augustine Deguffroy, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said he was pleased with the resolution approved by commissioners.

“I think it’s a good award,” he said. “I think it was an agreement both sides can work with and live with.”


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