Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011 | 2 a.m.
- County considers seeking reimbursement over firefighter sick leave abuse (2-15-2011)
- Firefighters had ‘sick rosters’ that planned days off in advance, so others could plan to get overtime (2-15-2011)
- County OKs contract with firefighters that saves $7.4 million (2-1-2010)
- Arbitrator backs county over firefighters’ union in contract negotiations (1-19-2011)
- County firefighters union preaches frugality, to others (11-2-2010)
- Sisolak offers proof of firefighters ‘gaming’ sick leave system (9-11-2010)
- County, firefighters’ union spar over contract negotiations (8-3-2010)
- Is a wave of county firefighter retirements on the horizon? (6-25-2010)
- Rory Reid says ﬁreﬁghters union resorting to ‘scare tactic’ with ad (6-15-2010)
- County considers plan to privatize airport firefighting force (6-11-2010)
- New plan to curtail Clark County firefighter overtime (6-5-2010)
- Staffing shuffle would cut county Fire Department overtime (5-20-2010)
- Las Vegas, Clark County collaborate to limit firefighter overtime (4-27-2010)
- Fire union resists move to increase its ranks, reduce overtime costs (4-16-2010)
- Has fire union support become a campaign curse? (4-15-2010)
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.”