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Government and Politics


A special investigator says some Cleveland firefighters should be prosecuted for shift trading
Fire department managers blasted for not stopping the paractice
by WKSU's KEVIN NIEDERMIER


Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
 
In The Region:

An investigation into so called shift trading in the Cleveland Fire Department says those who abused the practice should be prosecuted.  The investigation also strongly criticizes supervisors and managers for ignoring the abuses. But as WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, those management issues should not help potential defendants in criminal court.

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The 6 month investigation recommends 5 Cleveland firefighters be prosecuted for paying others to cover parts of their shifts so they could work outside jobs, but still collect city pay and benefits. Between them, they traded thousands of hours. The practice is considered a firehouse tradition unchecked by department officers. But University of Akron law professor J. Dean Carro says it would be hard for a defendant to claim innocence because a supervisor tolerated or ignored the behavior.

 

Carro:  “That doesn’t create a legal defense for me for prosecution because that person’s not in a legal position to make that determination. So in contrast, let’s say Cleveland’s mayor puts out a policy that says you can sell shifts, then you’d have it from your chief officer that it’s permissible. That then becomes a defense well call a mistake of law.”                               

 

State law prohibits government employees from paying others or taking money to do another employees work. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor must decide if the firefighters will go to court. Earlier this year one Cleveland fireman pleaded guilty to trading shifts and served part of a 60 day jail sentence. The issue isn’t confined to Cleveland. Last week, the City of Canton fired 5 firefighters for shift trading. 
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