Report Says Nev. Firefighters Planned Sick Time

LAS VEGAS --

Clark County firefighters who abused sick leave could soon face legal action, county commissioners said.

Clark County commissioners received an updated report on sick leave abuse during their Tuesday meeting and are sharing the information with local and federal investigators.

Before the most recent report, commissioners had already known that a third of county firefighters had taken a month's worth of sick leave in 2009.

But on Tuesday, commissioners learned that certain firefighters would plan their sick leave throughout the year.

"Even in the Clark County School District, a student can only have so many absences documented or undocumented," Commission Chairwoman Susan Brager said. "They call the parent when the kid is sick. Do we have to resort to that in our fire department?"

Commissioners said they were surprised to hear some firefighters had a so-called sick roster, a calendar that certain employees would use to plan their sick days throughout the year.

Read Firefighters' Sick Leave Roster E-mails

"It's very concerning, and I want to know who was involved, the extent of these rosters, how many there were and how they were distributed," Brager said.

When firefighters call in sick, it allows others to charge overtime on call-back pay. The report said that the largest single amount of call-back pay was about $80,000.

County Commissioner Steve Sisolak has already called for an investigation by the Las Vegas Metro Police Department and the FBI.

"The investigating agencies do have the power to prove it, they have subpoena power (and) they have investigative tools that we don't have as county commissioners and I would ask them to use those tools," Sisolak said.

The union representing the firefighters said it won't stand in the way of an investigation.

"There's a punishment that needs to be imposed upon those people, that they broke the law," said Ryan Beaman, local firefighter union president. "Then we'll be supportive with Metro and whatever investigation that they do."

County Fire Chief Bertral Washington said the department has a long road ahead in rebuilding its reputation.

"The majority of our firefighters are doing the right thing, and we're going to take care of any firefighters to make sure they're held accountable when they weren't doing the right thing," he said.

One issue commissioners said they are worried about is that the majority of firefighters who may have abused sick leave have been in the department for 25 to 30 years and may try to retire early to avoid any repercussions.

The county said the sick time abuse cost the county about $7 million in 2009.

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