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Should Slain Deputy's Wife Collect 'Service-Connected' Benefits?

The widow of off-duty Marin County Sheriff's deputy killed in Petaluma last year says she deserves full benefits because her husband responded in his capacity as an officer. Others say he was off-duty and went there on his own accord.

Marin County Sheriff’s deputy Jim Mathiesen was killed last July when he went to the Petaluma home of a friend who was having trouble with an ex-boyfriend.

Mathiesen wasn’t on the clock, had alcohol in his system and didn’t follow protocol by calling for backup.

But his widow says she deserves “service-connected” survivor benefits, which total $50,000 a year tax-free, instead of the $16,000 taxable survivor’s pension she now receives, according to an article in Monday’s Marin Independent Journal.

Last month, a Marin County pension panel voted 5-2 to approve the service-connected pension. But because two members were absent, the panel will again gather and vote this Wednesday in an attempt to determine a fair payment for the widow.

Mathiesen was killed July 19, 2011 when he responded to the Liberty Road home of a friend who was being threatened by an ex-boyfriend.

The suspect, 28-year-old Novato resident Thomas Halloran, appeared at the home and killed the deputy, but was then shot to death by the woman's brother.

But according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, Mathiesen was not only off-duty at the time of his accident, but on paid leave due to an injury, and had been informed that he could not perform the duties of a deputy sheriff until he obtained medical clearance.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

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Mark Burnham October 09, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I don't think think the officer not calling backup should have any bearing on the decision.
Claire October 09, 2012 at 11:26 PM
There is not one single reason to indicate his action was in any way service-related. In fact, there are a number of reasons his action were most definitely NOT service-related: 1) he was off-duty 2) had been drinking 3) did not follow protocol (which, if he had been on duty, may have gotten him fired); 4) was on paid leave for an injury WITHOUT medical clearance. While it is tragic that Office Mathiesen was killed while trying to help a friend, why should this become the taxpayers' issue? There is a reason it is called 'SERVICE-RELATED' and this clearly does not qualify - period.
JAN October 10, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Sad story from all directions. Expect that the widow will get the service - related pension once the entire board convenes. Interesting that the Sheriff would not support the deceased deputy. Probably more to this story than presented.
Keith S. October 10, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Are you kidding me. Here is a Sheriff who, though not technically on the job, attempting to help a friend. His widow has had to endure the rigors of his job and maintain a household. Allow her his pension and a give her a thank you from the community.
Keith S. October 10, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Here is a widow of a Sherriff and has earned his pension. Being married to a law enforcement officer is a hard life. He went to help his friend and was gunned down. Even though he was not technically on the job he still is a Sherriff 24 hrs a day/ 365 days a year.
Keith S. October 10, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Unlike you law enforcement officers never get away from their job. They can be called at any time and are constantly in danger when working. Don't forget she has had to endure the life style that constantly makes you miss holidays, birthdays and other family activities that most people take for granted. She has earned his pension.
Born & raised October 10, 2012 at 04:12 PM
If I'm not mistaken, she had left him. They weren't even together anymore. She's just lookin for a free ride. Reminds me of a Kanye West song.
Claire October 10, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Keith - you don't seem to understand the word 'service-related', although it is fairly self-explanatory. His widow will get a pension, no matter what, but she shouldn't get the 'service-related' one, because it clearly wasn't service-related. If, as you say, a police officer is a police officer 24/7, why would there even be a distinction between service-related and non-service-related? In that case, there would be one kind of disability amount and there wouldn't be a questions if something happened on duty or off duty. If an officer had for example recklessly caused a car accident while under the influence, would the department become liable even if he was off-duty when the accident happened? Also, you say that 'unlike me, law enforcement officers never get time away from their job'. First of all, that is completely untrue and secondly you shouldn't make any assumptions as to what I do.
Keith S. October 10, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Hey, when you walk in the shoes of a law enforcement officer then I think you would be more understanding. Even though you claim they were separated, unless divorced, she gets his earned retirement. I never said they don't get time off. Learn to read.
Steve October 10, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I think she is entitled to the service pension because his death arose out of his actions arising from his status as a law enforcement officer, even though he was not "on duty." He was trained to respond to the situation that led to his death, which someone who is not trained would probably not have responded in the same way. Would he have been there but for his status as a deputy sheriff? If you are in trouble, are you going to call your friend the deputy or someone not trained in law enforcement? If his death occurred in an automobile accident unconnected to any law enforcement action, it would probably not be service-related.
Mary Gamble October 10, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Claire is 100% correct. Why is this a tax-payers burden? Spouse is entitled to survivor's pension, that's it.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr October 10, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Put me on that panel and I would award the widow her pension. Law enforcement officers are on-duty 24/7.
DC October 10, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Clair - I believe you would want an off duty cop to come to your aid if you were in trouble, scared to death. But imagine him saying "sorry, I'm out of here" for the reasons you embrace. Give his dependent(s) their due and stay comforted that off duty cops will help you in a second, for it is proper.
DC October 10, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Seriously, the tax payers' "benefit" is that an off duty cop will assist someone in trouble, with full knowledge that he or she is not getting extra pay for doing so. It happens all the time until ... we start scrutinizing their reasons for engagement. They are well trained and know to engage when necessary.
Lloyd October 10, 2012 at 08:42 PM
There appears to be something more than this article has explained. I normally would say yes for the widow but the alcohol and other information being offered lead me to believe there are possible circumstances and we all should withhold judgement if and when it is all put b4 the public for us to be able to make an informed decision.
DC October 10, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Lloyd, that's saying that you or anybody else shouldn't help someone because you've had a beer. To me, that's ridiculous. The beer issue is a red herring.
JAN October 10, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Hello Claire, I hope you never get into a situation where you are afraid for your life and call an off duty IOD police officer for help. If he responds to your side and dies at the hand of a violent offender it's good to know where you stand. I also hope the off duty IOD officer isn't home when you call. You have a very simple notion of what it is to be a police officer/deputy sheriff and the obligation to render aid.
Claire October 10, 2012 at 10:53 PM
I hear all the reasons you guys are saying the widow should get the service-related payment and I appreciate the work of every single law enforcement officer. It appears as though in this case several things went wrong - things that may have not gone wrong if the party who called Mathiesen would have called 911. The fact still remains that he was not only off duty, but also on medical leave and the rules clearly say the widow is not entitled to the larger, service-related amount. If you feel so strongly about this, why don't you guys sign a petition to the entity who makes these rules and regulations and have them changed to reflect under which circumstances a service-related payment would be issued. I would completely agree with that. If they allow this case to go through, it will set a precedent in all of California and that can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not in compliance with the current rules. The same rules have to apply to everybody. So instead of repeating that I don't appreciate the work of law enforcement people, which is absolutely untrue, why not do something constructive and draft a petition to change this provision?
JAN October 11, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Hello Claire, The widow getting the service connected pension is almost a done deal. "Last month, a Marin County pension panel voted 5-2 to approve the service-connected pension. But because two members were absent, the panel will again gather and vote this Wednesday in an attempt to determine a fair payment for the widow." The decision has probably been made as you read this. You sure are adamant about something you know so little. Did you read the article all the way through? Mathiesen also leaves two boys behind, one 17 and one 21. How about Mom and the 2 boys living on $16,000.00 a year? About $1,300.00 a month.
Tiffany October 11, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I am with Claire on this one. The woman should have called 911 or Mathiesen should have done so himself knowing that he was off duty and on a medical leave. This is a very sad story and I really feel for the family but this could have been prevented if he would have followed protocol. The rules should not be bent. Thery are there for a reason and technically it was NOT "service-related". Jan, It is very sad that the family will now have some financial struggles but the "boys" are actually men and could help out. The mother will have the possibly work if $16,000/year will not be enough. Again, this is very tragic and my heart goes out to them but it should not the taxpayers responsibility to pay for this.
JAN October 11, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I am with the pension board on this one. Interesting to see that women were the most opposed to this widow's pension. You should all be proud of your firm stand for fiscal clarity and judgement of a subject you know nothing about.
Annette October 11, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Claire has said it all. While tragic, Mathiesen was acting as a friend not an officer.
Annette October 11, 2012 at 04:57 PM
This was a very very tragic situation....what if I had gone over there to give advice to my friends...Would MY family get anything...hell NO...One of the reasons for the financial mess in this state. Regarding your statement that officers never get away from jobs. They are technically on call 24/7. Did he hear or witness anything that required him to respond, NO. He received a phone call from friends asking for his expertise. In light of what occured that called should have be to 911 instead.
Annette October 11, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Medically is wasn't cleared to act in the capicity of a sheriff.
Annette October 11, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I' so pleased to have had the opportunity to hear the opinion of the ONLY women who "knows". SMH
Claire October 11, 2012 at 05:40 PM
me too! :)
DC October 12, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Claire, Would you please show me the rule you are referring to, that I may compare it to the following Code to make a more informed decision. California Government Code 50921: Whenever any peace officer of a city, county, or city and county of this state is injured, dies, or is disabled from performing his or her duties as a peace officer by reason of engaging in the apprehension or attempted apprehension of law violators or suspected law violators or protection or preservation of life or property, or the preservation of the peace anywhere in this state, including the local jurisdiction in which he or she is employed, but is not at the time acting under the immediate direction of his or her employer, he, she, or his or her dependents, as the case may be, shall be accorded by his or her employer all of the same benefits including the benefits of the Workers' Compensation Law, which he, she, or they would have received had that peace officer been acting under the immediate direction of his or her employer. Any injury, disability, or death incurred under the circumstances described in this section shall be deemed to have arisen out of and been sustained in the course of employment for purposes of workers' compensation and all other benefits.
Keith S. October 12, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Here, here. Thank you!
Claire October 12, 2012 at 05:29 PM
DC - the Novato Patch put out the question whether Mathieson's wife should receive service-connected benefits. I read from the article that there were different opinions as to whether she was entitled to that and the Patch asked people to comment and express their opinion. If the only rule that applies to such cases were indeed Government Code 50921, the question of entitlement would have never arisen. I don't know if other rules apply, but most evidently there were reasons why her entitlement was in question. When I commented that his wife should not receive benefits since it wasn't service-related, my comment was based on the article on the Patch with what I assumed was a legitimate question. If this is a rule that applies to all cases across the board, no questions ask, I am all for his wife to get the service-related benefits - as long as the same rules are applied across the board. If you read the article in the IJ you will see that she has now been granted the service-connected benefits based on a vote of the Board. However, the decision was evidently not as clear-cut as you make it seem and several people on the Board, as well as the County Retirement Administrator, were against paying service-related benefits without appointing an investigative committee and they must have had their reasons for that - whatever those reasons are.

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