Sgt. Robert Koistinen, who is awaiting trial on charges that he interfered with the investigation of a fatal crash involving his son, will receive $48,815 in disability payments for heart and hypertension ailments.
Residents approved the necessary transfer of funds at a town meeting Tuesday night. The town will move the money from its contingency fund to the professional and technical account.
Several residents asked what would happen if the town did not approve the transfer. Town attorney Scott Storms said that because of a state workers' compensation statute, the town probably would face sanctions if it denied the claim.
Koistinen, 54, has been seeking workers' compensation since 2005, and town officials signed an agreement in 2009 acknowledging that Koistinen qualifies for the heart and hypertension disability. The payment is based on a 15 percent disability, and Storms said Koistinen might receive more if medical complications related to the ailments render him more than 15 percent disabled.
But, the town challenged earlier medical assessments and negotiated to lower the disability award amount — which, based on Koistinen's overtime pay in 2005, could have been as much as $58,500 — after the fatal crash in October 2010. Koistinen has been charged with third-degree hindering prosecution and interfering with police at the scene of the crash, in which a car driven by his son, former Officer Michael Koistinen, hit and killed 15-year-old bicyclist Henry Dang.
Robert Koistinen was the first police supervisor on the scene of the crash and, according to police investigations, removed his son from the scene of the crash and blocked attempts to administer tests for alcohol. Last month, Koistinen rejected a plea offer from the state, opting to take his case to trial.
Robert Koistinen has been on paid administrative leave since the crash, receiving his $73,000 salary. In recent weeks, acting Chief Chester DeGray has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Koistinen. Although the details of DeGray's disciplinary recommendation have not been released, the action must be approved by the police commission, which is necessary if the proposal is more severe than a 10-day suspension.
The commission is expected to schedule a disciplinary hearing sometime in the next few weeks. Town labor attorney Kevin Deneen said that while details of the disciplinary recommendation will not be released until after an agreement is reached, it could be anywhere from an 11-day suspension to demotion or even termination.
Storms said that regardless of the disciplinary action taken against Koistinen, the disability payment could not be denied because the ailments preceded the fatal crash.