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Fired County Official Gets $28,035 on Stress Claim

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County agreed Wednesday to a $28,035 settlement of the workers’ compensation claim by a former top official who has also received nearly $150,000 in salary during a nearly two-year period when he was not at work.

George Tice, director of the Facilities Management Department until his dismissal for medical reasons on Tuesday, might also collect half his $76,042-a-year salary in annual retirement disability benefits. That separate claim remains unresolved, said Daniel McCoy, deputy county counsel.

The county settled the workers’ compensation claim after agreeing that Tice is permanently disabled by hypertension caused by stress from his county job, negotiators said.

“It’s fairly mild hypertension under medical control, but it does necessitate that he avoid very heavy work and undue emotional stress,” McCoy said. “If he does not subject himself to that kind of work, he’s OK.”

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Medical experts agreed that while Tice’s disability is partial, he is incapable of returning to his former job because of the high stress it creates, McCoy said.

Angry Questions

The Tice case has been the focus of questions by angry county supervisors since last Tuesday, when the board was notified by Chief Administrative Officer Richard B. Dixon that Tice had continued to receive his $1,462-a-week salary despite being on medical leave since February, 1987.

An aide to Supervisor Pete Schabarum said the supervisor believes that Dixon should have settled the case more quickly, and Supervisor Mike Antonovich said the chief administrator should have told the board long ago about the situation.

Dixon said he closely monitored the Tice case but by law could not recommend that Tice be fired until medical experts agreed that he was incapable of returning to work, a conclusion finally reached last month.

County policy allows Tice and many other county workers to be paid their salaries while they appeal disability claims, Dixon said. Sheriff’s deputies, for example, receive 100% pay for a year while on medical leave, he said.

The Tice case is unusual, however, since only elected county officials and department heads, such as Tice, are entitled to unlimited paid leave until their case is resolved, Dixon said. Such instances are rare and nearly all department heads now waive that right as a condition of employment, he said.

Tice, an engineer who joined the county’s Department of Communications in 1975 and became its director in 1980, was promoted to chief of facilities management in 1985. After a difficult two years, during which he was criticized for longstanding problems in the county’s building program, he walked off the job.

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“He came to work one day and felt he was lost,” McCoy said. “He couldn’t find his parking place. He left work, and his doctor told him not to go back to work.”

Examined by 10 Doctors

Over the next two years, Tice was examined by 10 doctors as his workers’ compensation and retirement disability claims were denied and appealed, McCoy said. The final two exams by physicians agreed upon by both sides led to Tice’s dismissal and the workers’ compensation settlement Wednesday.

The settlement, ratified by an administrative judge, declares Tice 100% disabled for his county job and 54% disabled for a broader spectrum of jobs. Most of the disability was caused by stress on his county job.

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Under the deal, Tice will receive $140 a week for nearly four years and is entitled to lifetime county-paid treatment for hypertension, McCoy said.


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