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Firefighter collects disability in N.J., works in Raleigh

Posted December 21, 2010
Updated January 3, 2011

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— New Jersey officials have suspended disability payments to a firefighter who retired in that state two years ago, only to take a job with the Raleigh Fire Department.

Herman Gregory Ellis worked for 14 years as a firefighter in Harrison, N.J., near Newark, before retiring on disability in November 2008. He collects a $2,515-a-month pension from the New Jersey Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, which is funded through tax dollars, employee contributions and investments.

Bill Quinn, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Pension and Benefits, said Ellis has an "ordinary" disability, meaning that he wasn't injured while on the job.

"At the time he applied for disability, he signed a certification saying he was unable to perform the duties of a firefighter's job here in New Jersey," Quinn said Tuesday.

Two months before he went on disability, however, Ellis began working for the Raleigh Fire Department.

"It's not a problem with working somewhere," Quinn said. "The question would be, is he performing the same duty that he represented that he could not perform up here?"

The board for the Police and Firemen's Retirement System suspended Ellis' monthly payments, beginning in January, until it can investigate his situation. The board next meets on Jan. 10.

"That's a very serious step for them to take," Quinn said.

Ellis, 39, said Tuesday that he has done nothing wrong and referred all questions to his attorney. He makes $37,485 as a Raleigh firefighter.

Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath said he contacted City Manager Russell Allen and City Attorney Tom McCormick after learning that Ellis appeared to be double-dipping.

"We have given it the appropriate attention. We have taken the appropriate steps," McGrath said, declining to elaborate on what he considers a personnel issue.

Quinn said the New Jersey board will submit its findings to that state's attorney general, who could force Ellis to repay the more than $60,000 in disability money he has collected.

Ellis also faces a Wake County judge in March on a charge that he assaulted his girlfriend. He was briefly suspended without pay after his arrest last March


This story is closed for comments.

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  • FromClayton Dec 23, 2010

    lol so he would have gotten away with it, had he not brought attention upon himself by getting arrested for attacking his girlfriend. lol. karma is a ...

  • tran Dec 22, 2010

    With various deficit hawks urging state and local governments to eliminate public unions, this just throws fuel on the fire.

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Dec 22, 2010

    He ought to be ashamed!.. I wonder if the girlfriend that he assaulted had anything to do with bringing his scam to light?

  • ncken1 Dec 22, 2010

    There is much more to the story. According to local NJ news sources, Mr. Ellis is allegedly part of an illegal drug investigation on the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone by New Jersey law enforcement officers and firefighters. For more on the story, here is the URL for today's NJ newspaper article.


    Why isn't this guy fired by RFD?

  • jdo823 Dec 22, 2010


  • Apex Man Dec 22, 2010

    The motto of many of the police and fireman in NY and NJ is "Twenty and out with a disability pension". Not only does the employee get to retire, but with a disability pension your pension is 3/4 of your average last 3 years of work verses the usual 1/2 pension. Many fireman / policemen in these areas of the country game the system by working excessive overtime which often means their pensions exceeed their base pay. On top of the disability scam comes the free health insurance for life and a pension that is free from both state and federal income taxes.

    The next place to check for pension abuse is the number of police retirees working at the RDU airport. How many of these peole are on disability from NY?

  • brwneyez70 Dec 22, 2010

    Sounds like someone didn't do a reference check. If they had they would have known that he was out of work in NJ bc of an injury. That money needs to be split 3 ways & paid back. Raleigh for not doing their job, NJ for not reporting it to Raleigh if they asked about it & the firefighter. $2500 extra a month was GOOD money for a low paying job like firefighting.

  • amyrn Dec 22, 2010

    I find this to be most unusual for a firefighter. I do think he should be charged with fraud and have to pay back the money. I wonder what kind of disability he had that would keep him from performing firefighter duties if it didn't happen on the job and how he convinced a physician to label him as disabled unless it was a psychiatric diagnosis?

  • Tax Man Dec 22, 2010

    Fraud - needs to pay it all back immediately and should be fired from Raleigh Fire Dept. Refer to prosecution for fraud! Also, what's up with the assault on a female?

  • dcatz Dec 22, 2010

    How is it that a firefighter only makes $37,000 a year for putting their life on the line every day and yet our politicians make thrice that doing nothing but sitting on their rear ends all day?

    I'm not defending what he did but $37,000 is insultingly low for such a risky profession. The government needs to cut all entitlement programs and divert funding to things that are actually important like firefighters.