COLUMBUS: A disabled police officer’s drug dealing counted as a long-term job and disqualified him from receiving state injured-worker benefits, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In its unanimous ruling, the high court ordered former Parma officer Donald McNea to repay the state for workers’ compensation payments he received from the date of the first confirmed unlawful sale of OxyContin. Their decision upheld a lower court ruling.
McNea’s department was secretly investigating him for the illegal drug dealing when he was injured and placed on permanent total disability in August 2004, according to Thursday’s decision. He was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison after being indicted on 20 counts of criminal activity, and his benefits were terminated.
McNea argued that while his actions couldn’t be condoned, he was not engaged in the type of long-term work that can bar workers’ comp benefits. Four drug sales over two months don’t “rise to the level of maintaining, prolonging or keeping in existence such activity,” McNea’s attorney argued in a June 2011 court document.
McNea, who made $6,200 from the sales, also objected to the state’s contention that that would have equaled more than $24,000 in annual salary, calling that a “quantum leap” that couldn’t be substantiated.
The city of Parma disagreed, arguing in court papers in July 2011 that substantial evidence indicated McNea had been involved in “a criminal enterprise that had spanned over several years.”
The Supreme Court agreed, saying Thursday that “McNea was performing sustained remunerative work through late December 2005, and there is no evidence that his medical condition changed afterwards so as to preclude that endeavor.”
The ruling means he’ll also have to pay back benefits he received before going to jail.