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July 31, 2014

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Answers: Clark County:

FBI sifts through 250,000 e-mails for firefighter sick-leave probe

Firefighter sick leave

KSNV report by Sun reporter Joe Schoenmann on pending discipline Clark County firefighters face over alleged abuse of sick leave, May 12, 2011.

After last week’s revelation that one Clark County firefighter has been or will be fired and more than a dozen others will be disciplined for their misuse of sick leave, firefighters and county officials are waiting for the other shoe.

You mean the other fire boot?

No. The other shoe, as in “the other shoe to drop.”

Everyone’s awaiting the findings of investigations by Metro Police and the FBI, which Commissioner Steve Sisolak formally requested after emails among various firefighters came to light this year. In those emails, it appears firefighters were arranging to call in sick months ahead of time.

Have you learned anything from sources about what those investigations might find?

The Sun has learned a few things about them.

When county administrators first checked firefighter emails for signs of misuse, they looked at a few thousand messages. Their findings, however, were enough to elicit strong declarations from Norman Brand, an independent arbitrator from California hired to make a decision in a dispute over the firefighters’ contract with the county. Brand wrote that some employees “use sick leave as vacation, scheduling themselves to be ‘sick’ months in advance.” He also noted that it appeared some firefighters called in sick late to create the opportunity for colleagues to collect overtime, and also receive callback pay, which triggers contributions toward substitute firefighters’ retirement for that shift.

That’s based on a few thousand emails. Sources, however, say the FBI has looked at as many as 250,000 firefighter emails, searching for key words such as “vacation” and “sick leave.”

It is an understatement to say county officials and firefighters are nervously awaiting what might be uncovered — firefighters to see whether anyone the county missed gets “hit” by the FBI; and county officials to see whether they should have delved deeper.

Where are all the emails being found? When you delete one, doesn’t it get erased?

Nope. One source put it this way: “You can’t see them, but they’re always there, lurking somewhere inside the system. It’s like herpes.”

When are those investigations supposed to end?

Sources would only estimate “in a few weeks.”

•••

When someone in a major position retires or moves on, naysayers often take a parting shot, one they didn’t have the guts to take when the person was on the job.

Kathy Silver

Kathy Silver

So obviously, there are people who want to take some shots at Kathy Silver, CEO of University Medical Center, who announced her retirement effective July 1.

You would think, because the hospital has gone through so much turmoil during the 4 1/2 years she’s been in charge:

• Silver took over for Lacy Thomas, who was fired as a criminal probe looked into allegations that he gave $10 million in unnecessary contracts to friends and associates. (Charges against Thomas are still being considered in District Court.)

• At the end of 2008, UMC closed its outpatient chemotherapy clinic because of budget cuts. (The hospital loses money in large part because it serves many of Clark County’s uninsured.)

• A few months later, “60 Minutes” aired an embarrassing piece on the clinic’s closing. (The clinic reopened in 2010 with the help of a $3 million grant from the Nevada Cancer Institute.)

• After a Sun investigation, the FBI in late 2009 began a probe into the selling of patient information to personal-injury attorneys. (This month, a Las Vegas man was sentenced to 33 months in prison; the FBI investigation is ongoing.)

There’s more, but that’s enough.

And you say critics haven’t emerged?

County commissioners expressed nothing but admiration for Silver, who they say undertook a very difficult job.

“I think she did a great job,” Commissioner Larry Brown said. “She inherited the prior regime’s situation. She inherited the recession. And I thought she handled everything very professionally, always keeping the mission of the hospital in the forefront.”

Who might replace her?

For an interim CEO, commissioners mentioned Brian Brannman, UMC’s chief operating officer. Commissioner Tom Collins also told the Sun that Brannman “would be a good choice” as a permanent replacement.

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  1. Brian Brannman is a good man. He's been a faithful number two while learning the ins and outs of UMC. He'll make a good successor CEO. There are a lot of good people at UMC that care. Despite the beating it takes in the media it's one of the things that Clark County does right.

  2. Sisolak said, Sisolak said, obviously he is the source, he always is for Shaneman.
    Sisolak says something, Shaneman writes what his source says.
    Weird that Sisolak was there once again to be a media hog for his buddy Joe S.
    Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah.........................

  3. For the firefighters that did not steal via the sick leave scam, have nothing to worry about. Now for the ones that did, if the FBI does discover orginized corruption, be afraid, be very afraid. The government is going to take all your money and put you in prison. I would retain a smart federal attorney and start getting prepared for an indictment. You may be able to fool Clark County and such, but your toast if the Feds come after you. Good luck!

  4. I said before when this whole overtime issue emerged that certain FireFighters of Las Vegas were scaming the system. I also wrote that an easy fix was to simply take engine companys out of service when members book off sick. I am an Officer in a IAFF Professional Department with 250 members and that is how we do it when there is excessive sick leave for a shift. I am slso pissed to hear about these acusations, if it can be proved that these Firefighter's scamed the system I hope they all get fired and sued for the return of any monies they recieved. Sick leave is a privilage that most Unions fought hard to get and should never be abused.

  5. All that participated should go to jail, loose their jobs and pension. Just a bunch of crooks. They make the rest look bad.

  6. I'm sure that the FBI will find more sick/vacation time abusers. As it stands now, 17 out of 700 seems to be inaccurate.