PAYBACK RELIEF FOR GIS' KIN

NY Post - October 10, 2006

by STEPHANIE GASKELL

The families of a New York City firefighter-turned-cop and another police officer who were killed while fighting in Iraq got some good news from Mayor Bloomberg yesterday.

Bloomberg announced the families would not have to pay back thousands of dollars from the city to cover the men's salaries while they were overseas.

"That's very nice," said Sharon Engeldrum, the widow of slain Iraq war hero Sgt. Christian Engeldrum, when a Post reporter called her at her home yesterday to break the news.

Just hours earlier, Bloomberg finally said publicly what members of his administration have been saying privately for months: the city will forgive the debt of Engeldrum, 39, as well as that of Sgt. Jimmy McNaughton, 27, a cop shot by a sniper in Iraq in 2005.

They participated in the city's Extended Military Benefits Package, in which they got both military and city pay as a way to keep city benefits, seniority and more.

The agreement calls for military personnel, upon their return, to give back the lesser amount.

Speaking at a press conference before marching in the Columbus Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, Bloomberg said both men had already paid "the ultimate price.

"There's no intention to try to collect monies from the widow. They paid enough price already."

Bloomberg said the city never intended to ask for the money back and blamed some of his commissioners for "not explaining it as well as they might have."

"What we're trying to do is to balance what's responsible, fiscally responsible, and what's fair," he said. "We've asked our young men and women to go overseas and to fight for us, and, sadly, some of them pay the ultimate price."

Bloomberg also said he is still looking into whether reservists who work for the city should be asked to pay back housing costs.

"We'll try to work something out."