Kenneth Cusick, an Ottawa firefighter charged with murder, will be receiving a pension but not for the full amount he was hoping to receive.
Cusick was approved for a non-duty disability pension during his Thursday hearing with the Fire Pension Board.
Cusick was seeking a pension for disabilities caused while serving as an Ottawa firefighter and while the Fire Pension Board acknowledged he was disabled they ultimately found there was nothing that occurred while he was serving as a firefighter that led to that disability.
As such, he was granted a non-duty disability pension that constitutes 50% of his salary. The amount is taxable but the city isn't responsible for his health-care as they would have been if he received an in-duty disability pension.
Ottawa Fire Pension Board Attorney Jerry Marzullo said in a phone call to The Times that Cusick’s attorney argued there were “several specific incidents” on a couple of fire calls that triggered mental health issues.
Attorneys for the city of Ottawa were allowed to take part in the proceedings via a previous Fire Pension Board vote and City Attorney Megan Cantlin, of the Cantlin Law Firm, said in a phone call the city argued factors outside of his career had a greater impact on his mental state. These included the death of his wife, Tracy Cusick, in 2006 and the election of La Salle County State’s Attorney Karen Donnelly who acknowledged in her campaign she would bring the case against Cusick for Tracy’s death before a grand jury.
Cusick was charged in February 2017 with a trial expected to begin this year.
Cantlin said Cusick had six independent medical examinations conducted prior to the hearing regarding his alleged disability and submitted into evidence. The city never objected to Cusick receiving a non-duty disability pension.
Cantlin said Cusick has never been formally terminated by the city of Ottawa but is no longer receiving a paycheck.
Marzullo said Pension Board Members Jon Kranov, Ryan Tieman and Jeff Clift voted against granting a work-based disability pension while Board Member Greg Olson voted in support. The four members unanimously approved the non-duty disability pension. Board Member Jeff Newbury was absent.
The full pension amount was not available immediately after the hearing and would be calculated later.
Marzullo noted the hearing could be viewed as a particularly “charged case” given Cusick is on trial for murder.
“But the pension board has statutes and case laws that it's just required to follow,” Marzullo said.
He stressed individuals are innocent until proven guilty and the Fire Pension Board must follow a variety of statutes and case laws in how they grant pensions and fully consider the evidence and testimony provided.