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October 24, 2014

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Firefighters union boss’ father a hefty user of sick leave

Case ‘shoots holes in idea they knew nothing’

Sick leave abuse

KSNV coverage of County Commission's continuing investigation into alleged fire department sick leave abuse, Feb. 15, 2011.

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

As investigators probe the potential abuse of sick leave by firefighters, Clark County officials say they will find many instances of employees scheduling sick time off weeks or months in advance. Among them is a firefighter who used the benefit to help carve out 53 consecutive days off in 2009.

What’s notable about the employee, some officials say, isn’t the questionable sick days that were part of the time off — about a third of the department’s 700 employees called in sick at least 10 days during 2009, the equivalent of a month of work time. Rather what is most significant, officials say, is the firefighter’s close ties to the union, which has described the abuse of sick leave as the actions of “a few bad apples.”

The firefighter in question is Eddie Beaman, who according to the union’s website is a member of its executive board, discipline committee, insurance committee and the union’s AFL-CIO/Central Labor Council chairman.

He is also the father of union President Ryan Beaman, who for weeks said the organization was unaware of sick-leave abuse in the department. This, even after an arbitrator detailed how firefighters used sick leave and vacation time to take extended periods off work while still getting overtime.

When county documents showed the practice was more widespread, Ryan Beaman blamed county and Fire Department administrators.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak says the long vacation of Eddie Beaman, who was about as entwined with the union as a firefighter could get, shows union leaders had to know about the sick-leave issues.

“That kind of shoots holes in the idea that they knew nothing, doesn’t it?” said Sisolak, the first elected official to accuse firefighters of misusing sick leave and other benefits. “I would tend to think that this is family knowledge or union knowledge that gets passed on year after year, generation after generation.”

Ryan Beaman said he only has a “business relationship” with his father. He does not even know his father’s phone number, let alone his work schedule, he said.

He repeated what he has said in recent weeks, that those found abusing the sick-leave system should be punished.

Including his father?

“Yes,” he said.

Eddie Beaman’s 53-day stretch of vacation occurred in summer 2009. He strung together 37 days off, plus 12 vacation days, one day of “other” leave and three sick days.

The 37 days are the consequence of a typical schedule: 10 work shifts per month (24 hours each) and 20 days off.

Among e-mails obtained by the Sun is a July 8 message from Eddie Beaman to Battalion Chief Jeff Tidwell in which Beaman said he did not want to use “vacation” for two future days off, July 17 and 19.

He still took those days off. His work record, also obtained by the Sun, shows him as “sick” those two days.

In 2009, Eddie Beaman’s total compensation was $222,457: a base pay of $96,000, $60,000 in overtime, as well as contributions of $53,000 to his pension and $14,000 for insurance.

That year, Beaman called in sick 18 shifts, was on vacation 17 shifts, and took nine shifts off using “other” leave. In total, those absences accounted for 36 percent of his shifts in 2009. He also worked 44 shifts of overtime and five callback shifts that year.

Eddie Beaman could not be reached for comment.

The debate over firefighters using or abusing sick leave has raged for more than a year after a Sun article pointed to differences in the amount of sick time taken by firefighters versus other county employees.

Since then, some county officials have argued that a symbiotic relationship exists between firefighters who call in sick and firefighters who substitute for them. County officials think “sick” firefighters and their substitutes work out schedules ahead of time to maximize overtime and callback pay.

(If substitutes fill in within 12 hours of their last shift, they get overtime plus contributions to their pensions.)

During arbitration hearings last year to settle a contract impasse, the county used Beaman’s case and others to argue for more control of firefighter sick leave. The arbitrator agreed, giving management the right to ask for a doctor’s note if a firefighter calls in sick more than five days annually. Previously, the county could not require a note unless a firefighter called in sick at least four days in a row.

County commissioners last week debated the possibility of cutting firefighter pension payments in proven cases of sick-leave fraud.

By using so-called sick rosters and e-mail, plus subpoena power, Sisolak said he is “certain” that if abuse occurred it can be proven.

The Sun obtained sick rosters that show weeks ahead of time who would be absent and who would fill in.

The Sun compared the rosters with e-mail, including one series from April 2009 in which a battalion chief, Gina Hall, asks another, Renee Dillingham, to be scheduled “sick” in June. “I will be taking off June 10, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25 (all sick days if I can work it out ...),” Hall wrote.

A sick roster printed May 23, 2009, shows the names of those scheduled in June to substitute for vacationing or “sick” battalion chiefs. Dillingham was scheduled to work two of Hall’s sick days.

“That’s the kind of thing I hope investigators look at,” Sisolak said.

“With subpoena power, the FBI or Metro could get credit card receipts and, if you were out playing golf that day, you obviously weren’t sick. That would be proof to me.”

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  1. Oh what a tangled web we weave...

  2. I had no idea it was that bad. That's some pretty damning evidence. Jailtime needs to be handed out, along with loss of pensions.

    You can't abuse the taxpayers and expect to be rewarded financially, unless you are a big business Republican.

  3. And to think many towns have an all volunteer fire dept.. I look at what the men and woman make in the military, there jobs are more dangerous, how does a fireman make 200k a year? Hooray for the union, job well done.

  4. Again, as bad as this is, you cannot (sgtrck) lump
    ALL government employees or public employees into the same pot and call them evil and greedy. They are not even REMOTELY or tangentially connected.
    It's like lumping all private sector workers together and calling them greedy and shady because used car salesmen have a bad rep.
    Or all plumbers & electricians together because some shops are unionized and their work costs more because of it.
    (Generally speaking, unionized shops cost more, but IMO perform at a much higher level and are more trustworthy).
    Or all republicans together because John Ensign is such a sleazeball...

  5. This is all about trust and honesty. The Firefighters and the Firefighters Union have directly organized a system to defraud Clark County taxpayers. Thanks Steve for exposing this fraud by people who are supposed to protect, but instead are in effect stealing from us.

  6. And the records will also show there are lots of fathers, sons, brothers, nephews etc in the department. It's not so much about being skilled it's about being related.

  7. This organization is rotten to the core; time to disband and start over. Start a national campaign and we will attract highly experienced firefighters at half the cost. Most firefighters throughout the nation would be VERY happy with HALF the pay our firefighters are receiving.

  8. Very much looking forward to the criminal charges, including restitution for all of the guilty parties involved in this.

    What is done in the dark is brought to the light.

  9. Chunky says:

    In just the one instance outlined above we're talking a substantial amount of the public's money. Multiply that by the 200+ employees who had ten or more days, plus the ones who still abused it less than ten days.

    If ten days are equal to a month work and these people are making say $180,000 in total compensation that's roughly $32,000 x 200 employees or about $6.4 MILLION dollars. That's just the 1/3 who took more than ten days averaged.

    Chunky is certainly no math scholar but if it's anywhere close to these kind of numbers we do need the FBI or DOJ in here. This is NOT a job for Metro to be trusted with.

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  10. Wow, I thought Omaha, NE had an issue with corrupt FF union. Vegas you win, now go prosecute them all.

  11. Greasy Birdie speaks.

  12. There are two changes that could be made to the contract that would greatly reduce the incentive for this to occur in the first place.

    One, make sick time "use it or lose it" on an annual basis so it can't be saved up for the last year before retirement. The current contract allows for 12 sick shifts per year than can be accrued.

    Two, stop paying PERS on callback shifts. Any PERS contribution should be based solely upon the base salary and normal shifts worked, period.

    I would like to see other changes made to NRS288 in general. Taking away the either/or aspect of binding arbitration would help, too. That would make the contract negotiations a lot more meaningful.

    But just these two changes to sick time and PERS contributions would go a long way towards stopping this from happening.

  13. TN_Fireman,

    I don't know where that figure of $34k/yr came from. Here is the contract that just ended last year: http://media.lasvegassun.com/media/pdfs/...

    Look on page 108 for schedule 69 (Firefighter 1) and it shows the base at $51k/yr.

    You should also look at the sick pay provisions in Article 16. It takes about 7 pages to explain that, one of the longest sections in the contract. But 12 shifts/yr that can be accrued amount to almost unlimited if held on to for long enough. Don't overlook the section allows them to be sold back if enough are accumulated.

    The way the benefits work it will always be cheaper to pay OT than hire more people, which just further increases the incentive for some one to game the system.

    If that contract had been printed on toilet paper it would better serve the taxpayers.

  14. I think the Mayoral election is a chance for the people to show their displeasure with this situation. Chris G can lecture all she wants, but I don't see how she can avoid being seen as a career civil servant and career politican. She's never worked in the private sector and been in elective office for 20 years. Seems like she is either part of the problem or too clueless to be rewarded with another job.

  15. go_rebels,

    Here is the list of Commissioners who approved the contract that ran til last year and which is currently being negotiated again.

    Rory Reid, Chairman
    Chip Maxfield, Vice Chairman
    Susan Brager
    Tom Collins
    Chris Giunchigliani
    Lawrence Weekly
    Bruce L. Woodbury

  16. TN_Fireman,

    I have tried to suggest reasonable steps to take to prevent such abuse that at the same time recognizes the unique characteristics of the job. There are other steps that go beyond those, but I don't think they could ever be accepted.

    My solution is to remove the incentive as much as possible to game the system, yet still be fair to those who don't. I would rather say a straight salary, with no OT, at a fair rate. The system should not be rigged in favor of paying OT instead of hiring adequate numbers of staff. If firefighters insist on having an education to receive a specialized degree be paid for at public expense to be a professional, then they should be treated as such and classified as exempt.

  17. Through gross greed and abuse, Unions have allowed themselves to become distinct. They have no one to blame but themselves.

  18. ronster,

    I won't disagree that many are to blame for allowing this to happen in the first place, but at the same time County and IAFF 1908 had this clause put into the contract. ( http://media.lasvegassun.com/media/pdfs/... )

    From Article 2 paragraph 2:
    "The Union and County agree that the only way the public shall obtain a copy of this collective bargaining agreement is a request in writing to the Union or the County. At no time shall the County place the collective bargaining agreement, in whole or part on any website."

    That would seem to indicate that they have intentionally made it as difficult as possible for a member of the public get a copy of the contract. Worse, they have deliberately prohibited the widespread dissemination of this information.

    This, all by itself, warrants a state law or constitutional amendment mandating the publication by all available means of any public contract, preferably prior to approval.

  19. How much do the LV Firemen give to the United Way each year? I would like to know what the average gift is, using an average yearly compensation fo $183,000...or is this secret too?

  20. PartyLV and Steve10
    "It's about being LDS. More money for the church"

    What is the LDS percentage on the LV Fire Dept? After working at the Nevada Test Site, I was amazed at how many LDS members got hired, and usually into the same group with an LDS manager.

    The Nevada Test Site is big on nepotism and hiring brothers of the same faith. Groups of them will be hired at one time from one small areal of the US where the majority of people are one religion. They get the raises, they get the bonuses and they get the awards. Infidels beware, your days are numbered....

  21. Buddy,

    Good to see you posting as always. What do you think of my suggestion that sick time not be accrued from year to year? Would that harm those who do not abuse the system?

    Also, do you have any opinion on why such a clause as Article 2, paragraph 2 is needed in a contract?

    Not trying to put you on the spot, just truly interested in what you think of those items.

  22. Buddy, I'll grant that there could be legitimate reason to take sick leave that 12 shifts (33 days max I think) might not cover such as a broken bone or some other reason. I'd be willing to have some kind of mechanism to cover that.

    But what about the principle itself? I have never had a job where sick time could be accrued, let alone sold back. Vacation time, yes, but never sick time.

    Regards A2P2, what reason could a state or local government ever have to keep a contract secret or nearly so? (I'll grant that at the federal level there could be national security issues that would require this.)

  23. I called in sick maybe 6-7 times and was never paid for it...in my entire 36yr union career.

  24. "Politicians need to be elected and if they had to publicly account and argue every choice they made they would never make any decision for fear that they would lose constituents."

    I would submit for your consideration that elected officials should damn well be held accountable for every decision. :)

  25. You're right, Buddy, about having every taxpayer there to take part. That wasn't exactly what I meant. My point about contracts is that they should all be easily available for review, and if they are bad or questionable then the next meeting might be packed. Hopefully the voting booths will be packed next time around, too.

  26. The FF contract should be public information and the bargaining session also open to the public. I've heard that the fire union uses much intimidation during negations to achieve their ends.

    If those sessions were open, that wouldn't happen and the public would get a better deal.