Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2015

Currently: 83° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

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.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy