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Bronson questions fire chief's health

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By Claude Lewis

BRONSON - A recent workers' compensation claim by Bronson Fire Chief Rick Lombardo has town officials wondering if he is healthy enough to perform his duties.

Plus it has brought about the question, would a possible merger with Otter Creek put an added burden on his physical condition and affect the best interests of all concerned?

The quandary surfaced at the July 7 monthly meeting when Town Lawyer Stephen Warm surprised council members when he revealed Lombardo's compensation claim history over the past couple of years.

The reason for concern, according to Town Clerk Donna Conquest, is the fact that Lombardo is currently still performing his firefighting duties despite health issues allegedly incurred on the job as documented in his claims.

"How much is he disabled?" Warm wondered. "Are his injuries permanent? Is he well enough to do his duties?"

"My main concern is where does it put the city?" Conquest said. "What risks are we at? Can we be sued?"

Conquest said the fact that she has been contacted by an attorney representing Lombardo helped raise the caution flag.

Lombardo has been with the Bronson Fire Department for two years and has served as the chief for one.

The most recent workers' compensation claim was dated May 20. The diagnosis of the work-related condition was chest pain. Conquest said Lombardo had been denied that claim because of pre-existing condition, but that he was trying to get that ruling reversed.

Conquest said there are two previous workers' comp claims filed by Lombardo since he joined the Bronson fire force and another still unresolved dating back to when he was employed by Levy County.

Warm advised Bronson to find out exactly where Lombardo's health status stands.

"If there's a difference of opinion, then the wise thing to do is consult another physician," Warm warned. "The first thing would be to ask the gentleman for a report from his physician - a letter of medical fitness."

Conquest said she knew nothing of the workers' comp claim filed with the county until recently.

"He marked his condition on the work application, but why didn't he tell me it was tied to workman's comp?" questioned Conquest.

Conquest said even a release to perform light duties could create waves.

"The last fireman that was out on WC was told there were no light duties and if he could not provide a doctor's release with no restrictions, that he would have to be removed from the roster until he was able to provide such," Conquest wrote to Warm. "If we change this rule for the fire chief, will it create another legal issue for us concerning this person?"