Salary Tracker Examines Firefighter Overtime Costs

LAS VEGAS -- Firefighter overtime has long been controversial in southern Nevada. The I-Team uncovered a Clark County Fire Department sick time cheating scandal in 2010. In this Salary Tracker series, the I-Team once again examines firefighter overtime. 

When it comes to the highest overtime earners in Clark County, most of them are firefighters. Even so, Clark County Fire Department has reduced its overtime by half, in the past few years. That's not the case with the Las Vegas Fire Department. It's overtime was barely reduced during the Recession. The I-Team dug into the numbers to see why.

Clark County firefighters saw their average overtime plunge. A Clark County spokesperson explains how a new contract slashed overtime spending.

Average Pay by Occupation

"Before, you could be a firefighter and you could call in sick four days in a row and nobody would question it until you called in sick five consecutive days in a row. Now the contract gives us a lot more flexibility. We can investigate anytime there's suspected abuse," said Erik Pappa, a Clark County spokesperson.

It took a sick leave abuse scandal uncovered by the I-Team in 2010 to make those changes. Shortly after county commissioners stepped in, Clark County firefighters appeared to get a lot healthier with less overtime needed to cover shifts.

Las Vegas Fire Chief William McDonald admits they're spending more overtime than they want to, but explains it's not due to cheating on sick leave.

"We did an evaluation after we heard what was going on in Clark County. We did not find any indication we had those concerns or had those abuses. So there was no reason for us to take those actions," McDonald said.

There would have been 14 more city firefighters, causing less overtime, if the fire academy wasn't canceled due to a separate cheating scandal. This one involving cadets allegedly cheating on academy tests.

Salary Tracker Interactive Graphics

North Las Vegas firefighters are getting used to fire engines from Las Vegas racing to their city to respond to calls. Fire stations emptied by North Las Vegas budget cuts are covered by Las Vegas because of an old agreement. The North Las Vegas Fire Department's overtime spending is less than a quarter of the city of Las Vegas.

"It's time to revisit those relationships and determine whether we need to make some adjustments in those agreements," McDonald said. "Well, we may modify what we dispatch on a certain call into North Las Vegas."

But McDonald doesn't talk about how much additional money Las Vegas taxpayers are footing to protect North Las Vegas. Clark County Fire Department was raked over the flames for their troubling overtime spending in the past. Las Vegas feels they're left carrying the water for their neighbors and placing the burden on the city's taxpayers.

 


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