By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – The City Council is expected to formally grant permission today for city employees to donate leave time to injured Tupelo Police Officer Joseph Maher.
Mayor Jason Shelton told council members during a work session Monday that state law prevents the city from automatically paying Maher his full salary while he recovers from a gunshot wound sustained in a Dec. 23 ambush by a bank robber that resulted in the death of Sgt. Gale Stauffer.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do that we’re not already doing,” Shelton said after the meeting. “It’s certainly unfortunate that we have those constraints with the state law.”
Ironically, if Maher had shot someone in the line of duty, he likely would have been placed on administrative leave with pay, which state law permits.
Instead, the city will not automatically pay the 27-year-old his full salary as he recovers.
Instead, he will receive worker’s compensation payments and payments from the state Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Disability Benefits Trust Fund, but this won’t cover his full salary.
To help their fallen partner, Tupelo police officers and other city employees will donate sick leave time, ensuring he will not receive less than his regular pay as he continues to recover.
Maher is married and has a 15-month-old child.
The man who killed Stauffer and wounded Maher later died in Phoenix, Ariz., after a bank robbery there.
City personnel director Cassandra Moore said she would not know until after today how many employees donate leave time.
BancorpSouth has established bank accounts for the public to contribute to the two officers’ families.
Moore first called state worker’s compensation officials the day of the shooting to help expedite the claims process and said the city has tried to eliminate as much red tape as possible for the two officers’ families. Staff in the city personnel department have processed any paperwork that does not require the signatures of the officer or family.
“I’m trying to be as proactive on this as possible to keep these families from stressing over any bills coming in,” Moore said.