Iraq fallen owe city no more: Mike

NY Daily News - October 10, 2006

by LISA L. COLANGELO

The families of two municipal employees killed in Iraq won't need to repay the city for the dual salaries they banked while on active military duty, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

Firefighter Christian Engeldrum, who served in the Army National Guard, was killed in 2004. Police Officer James McNaughton, who served in the Army Reserves, was killed last year.

"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 said yesterday. "In the case of these two, there's no intention to try to collect moneys from the widow."

The city is struggling to untangle its military-pay policy that has left some workers - mostly police officers and firefighters - with mountains of debt.

Engeldrum's widow, Sharon, said she was pleased, but not surprised, by the decision. "I was pretty confident it wasn't going to happen," she said.

Under current policy, city workers called to active duty can earn salaries, benefits and pensions while collecting military pay. But when they return, they must reimburse the city for the lesser of the two salaries.

But many agencies fail to ask for the refund immediately, instead billing soldiers tens of thousands of dollars years later. "It's probably fair to say that some departments didn't explain it as well they might," Bloomberg said. "But, nevertheless, we will enforce our policies."