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31-year-employee loses insurance, salary

At last Monday night’s Hazlehurst City Council workshop, Blan Williams, who has worked for the city for more than 31 years, most recently as supervisor of the water and sewer department, made an impassioned plea to the council to help him get several issues resolved regarding a January, 2018, accident when he fell at work, hitting his head and breaking several ribs and his back.
Williams’ contention is that his injuries were filed as a medical claim and not as worker’s compensation, although he says he wrote an accident report and personally handed it to City Clerk Vernice Lopez. Lopez told him in the workshop that she has seen neither an accident report nor a worker’s compensation claim, but she would look for it in Williams’ files.
“I think I’ve been done pretty wrong because I was promised that this would be taken care of,” Williams stated. “It should have been handled as worker’s compensation.”
Now, Williams says, he may be forced to pay upwards of $30,000 to get his back fixed.
“That’s out of my pocket for something that happened when I was at work in good faith for this city,” he stated. “And I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think it’s right, and I don’t think it is very honorable. And I’m here asking for help. I’m asking for somebody to do what’s right. I love the City of Hazlehurst. I made my living and raised my children working here. I’ve just not been treated correctly.”
And he also pointed out that the city stopped paying him last summer without informing him, and that his medical insurance had been cancelled as of Oct. 2.
“I was informed the only way I could receive pay would be go ahead and file for retirement, which I did,” Williams told the council, “but I was still assured that my insurance would continue until my back got fixed.”
Williams also pointed out that in a meeting with Stone, Lopez, and Public Works Director Carl Leggett, that although the city may have to pay a hefty fine, that he was “assured” that the worker’s compensation claim would be filed. Lopez also stated that Williams had received short-term disability, but for only six weeks.
“This is something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” Williams said. “I can’t get on a tractor. I’m not allowed to get on a lawnmower. I’m not allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds for the rest of my life. And I live on a farm. It’s gone from bad to worse.”
Ward Two Councilman John Ramay stated that Williams was a “quality employee” for 31 years and “deserves what is right.” Ramay also said that the city needs to “make sure that if there is any way on God’s green earth that we do what’s right for him, for the City to make sure this man is taken care of, even if it’s through worker’s compensation.”
Stone then asked Bennett what the city should do, and she said it then became a personnel issue that needed to be discussed in executive session.
At the end of the meeting, after the council went into closed session, the members returned with the statement that no decision was made, pending further investigation from Bennett.

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