Local News

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

Posted December 21, 2010 4:13 p.m. EST
Updated January 3, 2011 6:57 p.m. EST

— 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