HIGHTSTOWN: Officer gets unpaid leave time for medical reasons

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
A borough police officer has been granted extended unpaid leave time for medical reasons.
“Based on the discussion and the advice that we have received from council we should direct (Business Administrator Henry) Underhill to advise Officer (Janine) Krupa that her request will be granted,” Councilman and Police Commissioner Seth Kurs said.
Mayor Larry Quattrone said there would be some conditions.
“Those conditions will be in a letter sent to her from our business administrator,” he said.
Councilwoman Susan Bluth said there is a condition that Officer Krupa undergo fitness for duty evaluation prior to the expiration of her return date.
The council unanimously approved the 21-day extension.
“At the middle to the end of May I started seeing double vision and we were trying to figure out what was going on with me so I had a lot of tests, a lot of things going on, and my blood work came back on the higher side of what’s called Myasthenia Gravis,” Officer Krupa said.
She went to her lieutenant and told him “she had to take some time.”
“The next day I went right to the University of Pennsylvania and they did a three-hour eye test and the resident there said that he believed I had what is called Ocular Myasthenia Gravis,” she said.
She said there are 20,000 cases of Myasthenia Gravis in the United States and 200,000 in all of the world.
“It’s an autoimmune disease,” she said. “It controls the muscles behind the eyes. So when your eyes get tired you start to see double vision when you are driving, when you are outside. Inside you are fine as long as you are not on a computer screen or watching TV.”
She went to see a neuro-ophthalmologist on July 18.
“Now of course you are trying to go for doctors. It takes long, four to six weeks,” she said. “The following week I went back we did another test and they actually said I was doing very well.”
She had a CT scan on July 28 that revealed she had an enlarged thymus gland, which controls the autoimmune system.
“My gland is bad,” she said. “It’s basically giving my body and my blood bad antibodies that’s controlling my body and making my symptoms worse day by day.”
“Everything is fine but this gland has to come out,” she said. “It has hyperplasia cells, which are precancerous cells so it is a must.”
She received three opinions from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
“I’m doing a more high intense surgery and the time is 14 to 21 days recovery,” she said, adding the procedure is called a transcervical thymectomy.
She said that is why she is asking for the extension.
“I have moved very quick with everything going on but I can only do as much as the doctors,” she said. “I am going to the best of the best. I am just asking you please do the right thing please.”
Mr. Underhill said, “The history to this is in early June we were advised that there was a medical problem.
He said the officer started taking time off on June 11 under the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act.
“The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives 12 weeks and then there is a requirement on how often you can use those 12 weeks,” he said.
“Essentially the time is used up, the officer’s 12 weeks ends Sept. 3,” he said.
He said she won’t receive the procedure until Sept. 3 and is requesting to be out until Sept. 24.
“According to the personnel manual, council can grant a leave without pay for a period of time at your discretion,” he said.
Councilman Kurs asked how much sick time police officers have before invoking the FMLA.“According to the FMLA, you have to use up any time you have on the books before you start the leave,” Mr. Underhill said.
During time off under the provisions of the FMLA, employees continue their health benefits at the borough’s cost but once they go out on unpaid leave employees are responsible for 100 percent of the cost of their benefits.
Councilman Kurs asked if the borough had a history of any other employees “looking for an extension beyond FMLA or time they currently have.”
“As far as I know I haven’t heard of other situations in any other departments,” Mr. Underhill said.
Mayor Quattrone said, “I wish you all the luck in this world with this operation.”
During public comment, Officer Frank Marchione said he would be happy to donate his unused sick time if that’s allowed.”
“I just want to throw it out there mayor,” he said. “It’s something to think about.”
Council President Denise “Denny” Hansen asked about the current staffing in the police department.
“How many and how many we are short,” she asked.
Mr. Underhill said the department is at “full strength.”
“I believe we are at full strength, which is 12,” he said, adding the department is down one officer who is out on disciplinary charges and one officer who is out under the provisions of the FMLA.
He said there are several new people finishing up training “who may not be able to do everything.”
“That would be a better question for Lt. (Frank) Gendron,” he said.
Mr. Underhill noted that the borough needs class II officers.
“We have advertised and are hoping to have some by the end of the month,” he said.
The department added two permanent class II officers within the last few months, according to Mr. Underhill.
“They both have to finish some educational requirements by the end of the year,” he said. 