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El Paso County weighs options for pension of slain deputy Micah Flick

Author: Rachel Riley, The Gazette - February 27, 2018 - Updated: February 27, 2018

The Honor Guard for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department folds an American flag that was to be draped on the casket of Dep. Micah Flick at his funeral on New Life Church in February.(Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

El Paso County might amend its policies again to improve benefits for the family of slain Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick.

Weeks after changing its health insurance policy to let Flick’s wife and 7-year-old twins receive free benefits for an extra year, officials now are discussing their options for the deputy’s pension.

Flick, an 11-year employee of the Sheriff’s Office, was fatally shot in the line of duty Feb. 5.

Under the county’s existing plan, his dependents would not see any of his retirement payments for about 20 years, said County Treasurer Mark Lowderman, chairman of the Board of Retirement.

The board is still in the early stages of reviewing how it might amend the plan, but Lowderman said one idea is to make those payments available to Flick’s family sooner.

The plan covers staff with the county, 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Pikes Peak Library District.

Under the plan, an employee contributes 8 percent of his pay and, once they are vested, their employer matches that amount, Lowderman said.

The board overseeing the plan is made up of employees from member agencies and people appointed by the commissioners.

In an executive session Monday, the board members sought legal counsel on how it could change the plan and still comply with federal regulations.

Like the tweaks to the health insurance plan that were approved Feb. 15, any revisions to the retirement plan would apply not only to Flick, but also to any other employees killed in the line of duty.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that any organization or any board has to look at something like this. Danger in the workplace is just more common now than it was five years or 10 years ago, 20 years ago,” Lowderman said after the board resumed its regular meeting. “The time is right for us to address this. I think we need to do it as quickly as possible but also as thoroughly as possible.”

Until Flick was shot, the county hadn’t had an employee die on the job since 1992, when Deputy Hugh Martin was shot to death during a raid on a drug dealer’s home.

Lowderman said the board could amend the plan as soon at its next meeting, at 9 a.m. March 19 at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Corp., 2880 International Circle.

People hired before 2013 had to work five years before becoming vested in the plan. Since 2013, it takes eight years.

Lowderman said he didn’t know the value of Flick’s retirement benefits.

In addition to the extended health insurance, Flick’s family will receive a $40,000 death benefit and a $40,000 supplement because the death was an on-the-job accident.

His wife also will be paid workers’ compensation totaling two-thirds of Flick’s salary, tax free. That ends if she remarries, Deputy County Administrator Nicola Sapp has said. The twins will continue to receive the benefits, though, until they are 18 or, if they attend college, until they are 21.

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, run by the U.S. Department of Justice, allows survivors of officers killed on the job to apply for a one-time payout, currently set at about $350,000, according to the program’s website.

That agency can take years to decide whether to approve claims, however. In the six months before Nov. 29, the bureau processed 332 death and disability claims, its website data show.Some were processed in months; others were pending for years.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby said she did not know if the Flick family had filed a claim with the federal program.

Rachel Riley, The Gazette

Rachel Riley, The Gazette