Thirteen Cleveland firefighters -- indicted by a Grand Jury for illegally paying co-workers to cover shifts -- have been suspended with pay.
Paying their friends freed them up to work other full-time job or run the companies while still getting paid by the city, according to The Plain Dealer.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted 13 Cleveland firefighters Wednesday, accusing them of illegally paying co-workers to cover most of their shifts -- freeing them to work other full-time jobs or run their own companies while continuing to collect salaries and benefits from the city.
The indictments from the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury include counts of theft in office and soliciting or receiving improper compensation. The practice is known as "caddying."
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said in a news release that the firefighters each failed to work at least 2,000 hours -- the equivalent of about one year -- of their scheduled time. The most egregious case involved firefighter Calvin Robinson, who had colleagues work 8,456 hours on his behalf. That amounts to about 4 1/2 years.
"The public's trust was violated," McGinty said in the release. "In addition to not working and receiving full pay, these individuals abused the system and collected retirement, vacation, medical and other benefits. They caused other firefighters to work multiple days without rest. Fatigued firefighters put the safety of the people [they serve] at risk as well as their fellow firefighters..."
Each faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted of the felony theft-in-office charge. Receiving improper compensation is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, as well as a seven-year exile from public employment.
A Cleveland city public information officer told reporters in a written statement the firefighters will probably get paid while on suspension, at least for a while.
The union says it's standing behind the firefighters, some of whom have been with the department for many years.
Reporters noted that the probe showed that Robinson, a substitute Cleveland teacher and an assistant Glenville High School football coach and operated a child care center, worked only one full shift in two years.
He is accused of orchestrating trades that meant he'd be getting paid by both the Cleveland school district and the fire department on the same day.