for abusing sick time, veteran Lower Merion Police Officer Christine Knorr resigned from the department Tuesday morning.
According to Lower Merion FOP Lodge 28 president Sgt. Gavin Goschinski—who advised Knorr throughout the month-long conflict—the township planned to terminate her based on "integrity issues" related to the reporting of sick time and technical violations of its sick use and leave policy.
Township manager Doug Cleland declined to comment, saying, "It’s a personnel matter, and we don’t comment on personnel matters, including this one."
But in a conversation with Patch, Goschinski characterized Knorr’s absences as justified and was critical of the township’s handling of the affair.
"I think the [threat of] termination was heavy-handed," he said.
"The Lodge acknowledges that there are some liabilities and issues, but those liabilities and issues are far more related to doing exhausting police shift work with objective and serious medical complications" he went on, adding that "this has nothing to do with police service, it’s due to chronic and severe medical conditions."
“We agreed that the best thing for her to do was resign. I hope that the Board of Commissioners doesn’t pile on, and make this an issue for termination."—Sgt. Gavin Goschinski, FOP Lodge 28
These conditions, according to Goschinski, are outlined in written notes from Knorr’s cardiologist and family doctors: they include neuropathy, chronic back pain related to degenerative spinal conditions, arthritis, chronic asthma and respiratory issues, and vascular disease—which includes major heart surgery in 2010.
Knorr’s cardiologist called her "completely incapable of police work."
"These are medical conditions that she’s lived with and have become chronic since 2008," said the union president, adding that Knorr, 43, had indeed logged “significant contractual sick time over the years.”
If the township accepts Knorr’s resignation—it is on the agenda for the Jan. 18 Board of Commissioners meeting—she will apply for short-term and long-term disability and get a “significantly diminished” pension, Goschinski explained, with eligibility in seven to nine years.
If the township refuses, Knorr will still have eventual access to her pension, but will be ineligible for disability—which would provide her a portion of her salary, plus health benefits, that would be financed by the township’s insurance company for the first 180 days (and then the township itself for two years after that). In this event, which Goschinski thinks is likely, Knorr would file a grievance to get her job back, with back pay and benefits.
“I regret that we couldn’t come to an agreement," Goschinski said. "We couldn’t, so we agreed that the best thing for her to do was resign. I hope that the Board of Commissioners doesn’t pile on, and make this an issue for termination after a person has already resigned. ...It’s about genuinely trying to do the right thing.”
Lower Merion police officers vest their pensions after 12 years of service but must complete 25 years for a fully vested retirement.
Knorr worked 15 years as a Lower Merion police officer, mostly in the Gladwyne area, and achieved the rank of senior patrol officer. Prior to that, she was a township police dispatcher for three and a half years.
"During her entire career, with the exception of sick time issues, she had consistently met ... the various standards by which the department evaluates police officers," Goschinski said.