Former California police officer fired after being accused of illegal sex with a minor is fighting CalPERS to keep his work disability pension.
The California public employee pension system sought to deny him the pension on the grounds that he had been dismissed from his post due to criminal misconduct. The CalPERS Board of Directors will take up the matter at its meeting on November 17th.
Jason Bemowski, a former police sergeant with the Chino Police Department, has since did not plead any contest on criminal charges that he had illegal sex with a 16-year-old girl in December 2018.
He was arrested by the Roseville Police Department and placed on administrative leave in March 2019. He applied for a disability pension a month later, according to CalPERS. An industrial disability pension is a kind of pension available to public security employees that allows them to retire at a younger age with full benefits and avoid paying income tax.
CalPERS contends that Bemowski is not eligible for disability retirement because he was subject to severe disciplinary action or termination at the time he requested it.
“His employer fired him for conduct prior to his disability pension claim. His request had not matured when it was terminated because CalPERS had not already granted it; he was not dismissed because of his alleged disability; and there was no evidence of a disabling condition prior to its filing, let alone the ‘uncontested evidence’ required, ”CalPERS staff wrote in a report recommending that the Board of Directors reject the disability pension. Bemowski.
CalPERS staff cited evidence gathered by the Roseville agency in the last two weeks of December 2018 to argue for Bemowski’s disability pension.
“Bemowski made and received dozens of phone calls to numbers associated with prostitution ads, exchanged hundreds of text messages with phone numbers associated with prostitution ads, and exchanged dozens of text messages with the underage girl with whom he paid to have sex, “according to a summary of the case by CalPERS staff.
In addition to the criminal charge of sex with a minor, Bemowski was charged with sexually harassing a subordinate he was assigned to supervise.
“Bemowski repeatedly sent inappropriate, unsolicited and unwanted text messages to this officer. She felt intimidated by Bemowski’s conduct because he was her supervisor, the Professional Standards Unit sergeant, and because she was still on probation, ”according to CalPERS staff.
The Chino Police Department officially fired Bemowski on October 1, 2019, after nearly 18 years of service.
According to the site Transparent California, at the time of his dismissal Bemowski earned $ 97,000 per year in regular salary and $ 186,000 in total salary and benefits.
Disability claim for an agent supported by a physician
A month after being put on administrative leave, Bemowski applied for an Industrial Disability pension, alleging he suffered shoulder and back injuries during training in 2002.
Bemowski was assessed by an orthopedic doctor, “who determined that he suffered disabling injuries on the job and was no longer able to perform his duties as a peace officer,” the call said. by Bemowski.
In appealing CalPERS ‘original decision denying him industrial disability pension, Bemowski argued that he was eligible for this pension because, despite being on administrative leave at the time of his request, he was still a paid member of the police service.
Bemowski’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
City urges CalPERS to reject disability pension
In August, an administrative law judge, Ji-Lan Zang, concurred with Bemowski’s argument, issuing an opinion which concluded that the legal precedents cited by CalPERS as grounds for denying retirement did not apply to l ‘case.
The judge wrote that “if (Bemowski) were to be deprived of his disability benefits while on administrative leave, pending the outcome of his personal complaint, such a finding would violate the fundamental principle that (Bemowski ) cannot be presumed guilty of the underlying conduct until the staff complaint is resolved.
CalPERS staff appealed the judge’s decision, arguing that the judge erred in applying the law.
A CalPERS spokesperson declined to comment on the case beyond what was included in the publicly available documents.
The administrative judge’s decision was also criticized by Alfonso Estrada, a lawyer for the city of Chino, who “vigorously” urged the CalPERS board to deny Bemowski’s retirement.
“The proposed decision in this case is forged with deeply troubling conclusions and a hyper-technical and flawed interpretation of the law. The result of this tortured analysis is that a convicted felon who assaulted an underage female victim of human sex trafficking will be allowed to pursue his IDR claim on the merits, ”Estrada wrote. “The proposed decision in this case is based on a tortured justification that fundamentally ignores that the act that prompted Bemowski’s dismissal actually occurred on December 23, 2018, when Bemowski victimized a 16-year-old child victim of sex trafficking. . “
This story was originally published November 10, 2021 5:00 a.m.