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A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted 13 Cleveland firefighters Wednesday, accusing them of illegally paying co-workers to cover most of their shifts — freeing them to work other full-time jobs or run their own companies while continuing to collect salaries and benefits from the city.
The indictments, which include counts of theft in office and soliciting or receiving improper compensation, might mark the first time firefighters anywhere in the country have faced felony charges for the illegal practice, commonly known as “caddying.”
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said in a news release that the firefighters each failed to work at least 2,000 hours — the equivalent of about one year — of their scheduled time. The most egregious case involved firefighter Calvin Robinson, who had colleagues work 8,456 hours on his behalf. That amounts to about 4 1/2 years, according to the release.
The following individuals were included in today’s indictment:
- Calvin Robinson, 52, of Cleveland
- Kevin Dever, 42, of Cleveland
- Bernard Fronhapple, 51, of Rocky River
- Barry Kifus, 40, of Painesville
- Kevin P. Kelly, 52, of Olmsted Falls
- James Oleksiak, 44, of Cleveland
- Robert Graham, 50, of Lakewood
- Michael Milano, 53, of Broadview Heights
- Nicholas Rucella, 49, of Cleveland
- Gary McNamara, 48, of Bay Village
- Peter Corso, 47, of Concord
- Thomas Jurcisin, 51, of Cleveland
- Daniel Losteiner, 45, of Cleveland
Wednesday night, this statement was released by the Cleveland Department of Public Safety:
“Given that this is now a matter before the court, the City of Cleveland will not comment on the pending cases regarding the 13 firefighters indicted today by the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury.”
“These firefighters will be immediately relieved of duty. An administrative pre-disciplinary hearing will be scheduled, at which time it is expected the firefighters will be suspended without pay pending adjudication of the charges in accordance with established city policy.”
“Chief of Fire Daryl McGinnis will adjust his staffing to ensure that the quality and timeliness of service by the Division to the community is not impacted.”
In response to the indictments, the Association of Cleveland Firefighters’ Local 93 released this statement:
“The Association of Cleveland Fire Fighters has become aware of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s review of an audit regarding the Cleveland Fire Department.”
“As the legal process moves forward, we expect to gain a greater understanding of all the circumstances in this matter. We have been and will continue to represent our members in all matters related to the terms and conditions of their employment. As always, Cleveland Fire Fighters remain united and committed to protecting the lives and property.”
Despite the fact that they were not logging hours with the Cleveland Division of Fire, the workers were still getting their yearly salary, insurance benefits, pension, clothing allowance and sick time.
“The public’s trust was violated. In addition to not working and receiving full pay, these individuals abused the system and collected retirement, vacation, medical and other benefits,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty in a news release. They caused other firefighters to work multiple days without rest. Fatigued firefighters put the safety of the people who are in danger at risk as well as their fellow firefighters.”
These investigations uncovered the abuse of firefighters paying others to do their job for them which allowed each of these defendants to have a second full time job and earn two separate incomes. Shift trading is allowed under strict conditions.
Firefighters are permitted to trade one shift for another with approval by a supervisor who assures that the firefighter is not working multiple continuous shifts and is physically capable of performing under stress. By city rule, all shifts must be paid back within one year by re-working that shift. A firefighter cannot hire out his job or sell shifts as these defendants did.
These firefighters disregarded the rules by paying someone else tax-free cash under the table to do their work for them while they accumulated all the job benefits as if they had worked that year themselves.