County awards demoted officer medical pension

June 12, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Baltimore County has granted a medical pension to a former Police Department lieutenant who was demoted for attempting to cover up an attempted suicide in the Wilkens District lockup, according to Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman.

The county personnel department granted the pension to Frank P. Sirotnak, 39, on April 3. Mr. Sirotnak had spent most of the preceding 11 months on paid medical leave for stress resulting from an internal investigation into the incident. He cited stress as the reason for his medical retirement, Sergeant Doarnberger said.

Mr. Sirotnak was tried before a departmental trial board on June 4 and 5, 1992, and found guilty of two counts each of misconduct in office, malfeasance in office, improper performance of duty and filing improper reports, Sergeant Doarnberger said.

Mr. Sirotnak was demoted to officer and was to be transferred away from Wilkens to another district.

However, he never returned to active duty. He went on medical leave the day his administrative hearing began and remained on medical leave for about 11 months until he retired April 3, Sergeant Doarnberger said.

Citing legal advice, Antony J. Sharbaugh, deputy director of the county's personnel department, declined to discuss the case or the amount of Mr. Sirotnak's pension.

But a Police Department source said Mr. Sirotnak is entitled to about 50 percent of his lieutenant's pay based on a formula calculated from his last highest 12 months' salary.

Police lieutenants in the county earn a minimum of $34,352 to a maximum of $43,385 a year after five years, the source said..

Charges against Mr. Sirotnak stemmed from an attempted suicide in the Wilkens precinct on February 5, 1991.

Sergeant Doarnberger said a prisoner, Robert Franklin Cathers, 32, had attempted to hang himself by ripping up a blanket and fashioning it into a noose.

"He was beginning to tie that to a light cover when a desk officer who had heard the ripping sound went to the cell and was able to stop it," the sergeant said.

The desk officer notified then-Lieutenant Sirotnak about the incident and the lieutenant ordered him to "destroy the noose and paperwork and not report on it -- to, in effect, cover up the suicide attempt," sergeant said.

However, two officers working on the desk that night reported the incident to police officials, who ordered an internal investigation.

Mr. Sirotnak appealed the trial board's ruling to the Baltimore County Circuit Court, which recently upheld the department's verdict.

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