Last week Council member Phil Mendelson outed the Chief of Fire and EMS, Dennis Rubin, for his negligence in managing the department’s overtime budget. During a live council hearing on OCTV-13, Mendelson named Chief Rubin’s players in what he called an “orgy of opportunity” for their excessive indulgence of overtime pay.

Mendelson stated that in FY09, under Chief Rubin’s leadership, 101 individuals pocketed a minimum of $20,000 in overtime pay. He went on to name several employees who rack-up $76,000 to $106,000 in overtime pay.

Chief Rubin proclaimed that he wasn’t proud of his department’s overtime frenzy, but apologetically professed that it will continue until the hiring freeze on 176 vacancies is removed. If hiring more employees is the solution, then why wasn’t it proposed in Mayor Fenty’s FY11 Budget and Financial Plan?

The Fire and EMS FY11 budget seeks the council’s approval for millions of dollars to increase salaries, but nothing to alleviate overtime spending pressures. (Watch video #2), where Mayor Fenty solicits the council for $13 million to adjust salaries at the Fire and EMS Department.)

How is it fiscally responsible for Chief Rubin to acknowledge waste, and not recommend measures to correct the problem?

Why didn’t the chief consider revisiting the Fire Cadet Program, which was placed on hiatus in 2009? This program provided D.C.’s disadvantaged youth with Fire and EMS training and a nominal stipend of $10.00 per hour.

Although cadets will not have the skill set of professional Fire and EMS employees, one can speculate that there would be occasions where their assistance could be employed to lessen the overtime, financial burden on taxpayers. The FY08 and FY09 top 25 overtime earners individually racked-up $37, 970.00 to $106,993.00 just in overtime pay.

When you do the math, it’s logical and fiscally sound to include cadets at $10 an hour in the overtime equation to reduce the pork. If Chief Rubin believes the cadet program isn’t a viable option, then he should hire more Fire and EMS employees.

Last month, during the FY11 budget hearing, Mayor Fenty didn’t request funding to hire additional full-time, fire and EMS employees. Paradoxically, he did solicit the council’s approval for $13 million to adjust salaries for Fire and EMS employees (see video #2).

Go figure!

To get the gist of the story, check-out the following snippets from city council hearings: Video #1 – Council member Mendelson questions Fire and EMS Chief about the exorbitant overtime pay. Video #2 – Mayor Fenty’s requests for a $13 million increase for Fire and EMS employees. Video #3 – A Fire and EMS employee petitions the council for Chief Rubin to be relieved of his duties. In addition, to review the list of the top 25 overtime earners and Mendelson’s letter to the CFO, Natwar Ghandi, requesting a criminal investigation of Chief Rubin’s mismanagement of government funds, read ABC 7 News’ article, “Mendelson Blast Fire & EMS...”

Pam Johnson