Ex-police chief loses fight with county, insurance co.

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By Tris DeRoma

Former Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy’s three-year legal battle with Los Alamos County and its insurance company over lost benefits ended June 11, after a judge determined he was not entitled to nearly $70,000 in compensation.  

Torpy lodged a complaint in February 2015 against Los Alamos County for breach of contract and the county’s insurance company, Union Security for unfair trade and insurance practices.

First Judicial Court Judge Francis J. Mathew decided against Torpy’s claims, saying that the county and the county’s insurance company, Union Security Insurance Company, were right in denying Tory’s claim for lost benefits.

Torpy claimed the county denied him money the county took out of his paycheck in lieu of Social Security for the eight and a half year’s Torpy was the county’s police chief.

Torpy claimed that when he started with the county, he was given a written promise that he would be paid 60 percent of his monthly salary through the county’s insurance company, Union Security, if he ever became permanently disabled.

In 2012, Torpy suffered a heart attack and a stroke, which resulted in him becoming permanently disabled.

While Union Security initially started to pay Torpy benefits, it stopped when insurance company representatives found out Torpy was receiving retirement benefits from his previous job as a deputy chief of the Melbourne Police Department in Melbourne, Florida.

A clause in the insurance company’s contract said Torpy couldn’t receive the long-term, 60-percent benefit if he was also receiving benefits from a government plan.

Union reduced Torpy’s benefit to $100 a month, and asked Torpy to repay $66,944.61, the full amount Torpy received from Union Security since his 2013 retirement.

However, Mathew also stayed the full payment, with Torpy only having to initially pay $500.

“Torpy will make an initial payment of $500 to USIC (Union Security Insurance Company) within 20 days of judgment,” Mathew said in his decision. “The remaining balance of the judgment will be paid from Torpy’s probate estate upon his death, the venue and governing law for the administration of which will be in the state of Torpy’s residence at the time of his death.”

Torpy’s attorney, Daniel J. O’Friel, did not have a comment about the verdict. Torpy could not be reached for comment and is presumed to be living out of state.

Torpy appeared at a Los Alamos County Council meeting last year in May to plead his case to the county council.

With his voice cracking with emotion, Torpy asked the council to help him in his legal battle with the county and its insurance company.

“Please ask yourself a few questions. What did Wayne Torpy do wrong?” Torpy asked the council. “Who bought this insurance and who procured it? Who should’ve known it and understood it. Read the employee benefits package that says you pay 60 percent of lost income and you tell me that I’m supposed to read other things in it like you’re going to take money away from me that I hard earned after a 25-year career that you were appreciative of that gave me the experience to be the police chief here,” Torpy said.

“Ask yourselves if we made a mistake, if we should reevaluate ourselves.”

When contacted Thursday, Los Alamos County spokeswoman Julie Habiger said the county had no comment on the outcome of the lawsuit.