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May 5, 2015

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j. patrick coolican:

Firefighters’ newfound health has me feeling a little sick

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

I’m sure I’m not alone in thanking the good Lord that Clark County firefighters have experienced a miraculous wave of good health.

Not long ago, our firehouses were sicker than your average kindergarten class. Sicker than Ferris Bueller.

Bacteria and viruses apparently had their way with rank-and-file firefighters, who averaged 227 hours of sick time two years ago.

Maybe the amateur cooks making firehouse chili were spreading food poisoning. A local Camus could have written a Las Vegas firehouse update of “The Plague.”

Whatever it was, I believe I speak for all of us when I say I was quite concerned about this epidemic of sickness and wondering if they were recovered enough to run into burning buildings to save us.

Now it’s like the Fire Department discovered penicillin or acai berries, as sick hours among Clark County’s bravest declined by 57,000 hours during the past two fiscal years.

A county report obtained by my colleague Joe Schoenmann found that within those 57,000 hours, battalion chiefs’ sick leave fell from an average of 164 hours two years ago to about 16 hours last year, a 90 percent decline.

For rank-and-file firefighters, the average hours of sick leave fell from 227 hours two years ago to 136 hours last year, a 40 percent drop.

(In firefighters’ world of 24-hour shifts, 227 hours is only a little more than nine shifts, so, you know, no big deal. To me and you, that’s five and a half work weeks. New mothers often take less time off to have their babies.)

Of course, something tells me the newly found good health wasn’t penicillin or acai berries or time in the gym (they always managed plenty of time in the gym when they were racking up sick leave anyway).

No, adult supervision is what cured them.

Firefighters had been planning their “sick time” ahead of time, to enable their colleagues to load up on overtime. Hey, I’ll be sick tomorrow and the day after, and then you be sick the day after that. It was a beautiful system, a lottery ticket with hundreds of winners.

The taxpayers were the losers, as were the disabled and mentally ill and other people the county could have helped with money wasted on our sick firefighters.

Excuse me, I’m feeling a little ill.

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  1. Call the Pope: It's a miracle! The cure for common greed, I believe...

  2. ""Actually a few of these local public servants really live in Oregon and other states""

    Wow, one hell of a commute to work!

  3. If it is true that the FEDS may get involved and open up a criminal investigation into the Firefighters sick leave gaming of the system, they should include a peek into the abuse of the Workman's Compensation system by a number of Firefighters, and be sure to look at who was responsible at the Fire Department for allowing the abuse to take place. A good part of this problem can be attributed to the "Good Old Boy" corruption network that has been allowed to run unabated here in Clark County Nevada for decades. FEDS while you are at it will you ask why & how inspections have taken place of new construction here in town when the walls have already been closed up? Probably should bring this up with ex-Fire Chief Steven Smith, Girard Page, Sandra Baker, or any of the people that have been around for a number of years! I am curious as to why the Fire Department's upper management did not allow Harrah's personnel to be interviewed regarding the highly publicized illegal remodels, which left thousands of hotel rooms unsafe for the public to stay in for a period which spanned more than a decade. Then if you don't mind ask the Fire Department why they didn't pursue the obvious illegal ASBESTOS removal from Harrah's various properties, because I thought that the Fire Department was entrusted to protect the public not cover up for Harrah's Entertainment Inc's willful criminal wrongdoing. But, to be honest the corruption extends far beyond the Clark County Fire Department...they have plenty of company.

  4. I seriously doubt this is only due to a "Handful" of firefighters abusing the system....57,000 hrs is a lot of hours for a "Handful" of firefighters to be stealing. It means this is widespread...I guess ignorance is really bliss....LMAO

  5. When I first came to Nevada, the attitude of "We do it because we can," really amazed me. It is ingrained in most rural Nevadans, native, and long-time Nevadans. It has been their "swagger" and stance for many years.

    But times have changed, as the population of Nevada becomes more and diverse, and now we can hear the tune,"The Party is Over My Friend," as folks who have been entrenched in their swagger being called out on it. Applying for false sick time is, in essence, stealing and abuse of trust. If anything, folks who earned "Perfect Attendance" at work should become celebrities and be treated better, given their own parking space, and special incentives.

    Why does our society reward dishonesty and corruption?

    Blessings and Peace,

  6. KUDOS go in large part to County Commissioner Steve Sisolak for having the courage to lead by asking the tough questions and getting answers - and cleaning up this shameful abuse of public trust!