The Kansas City Kansas Fire Department is under investigation after firefighters were paid $920,000 for shifts they never worked.
St. Joseph Fire Chief Mike Dalsing said the department has taken precautions to avoid making some of the same mistakes as the Kansas City fire crews.
“What they talked about down in Kansas City was the firefighters were having people work for them so they didn’t have to take paid time off," Dalsing said. "The city [St.Joseph] itself has a restriction you can only carry over 10 working days, or 240 hours, anything you have over that you loose. We have a safeguard in place so people can’t abuse the system."
It’s not uncommon for firefighters to work long shifts of 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off, and occasionally firefighters can trade shifts to accommodate personal schedules.
However, KCK fire crews manipulated shift trades to avoid using personal time off and have been paying other firefighters to take on additional shifts.
Captains and other higher ranking officials would trade shifts with lower ranking firefighters, and not make up the time. Leaving some firefighters without adequate rest between shifts, and others to cash in for shifts they never worked.
“We sat down with the union a couple years ago and our general orders specify what the limitations are for those kind of shift changes,” Dalsing said. “There is an allowance for shift changes in our contract with the local union. It simply states they are allowed to do shift changes with the ok of the Fire Chief or the Battalion Chief.”
Dalsing said that while shift trades are allowed for St. Joseph firefighters, shift trades are heavily restricted.
All shifts traded in at the St.Joseph Fire Department must be made by workers of the same rank. All traded shifts must be reported to the Fire Chief or the Battalion Chief, and all trades must be documented on the fire crews roster and listed in the fire departments reporting system Aegis for legal purposes.