Archive for April 22nd, 2016

Chicago inspector general attacks CFD uniform allowance

Excerpts from the

Chicago taxpayers are shelling out $5 million-a-year to provide a uniform allowance to firefighters that’s more like an automatic cash bonus because it’s completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded Wednesday.

Four years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took aim at treasured union perks that included the clothing allowance; holiday and duty-availability pay; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; a physical fitness incentive and a 7-percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics.

The mayor subsequently backed away from all of those concession demands in a pre-election contract that won him the surprise endorsement of a Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 that had endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico over Emanuel in 2011.

The new, five-year contract called for Chicago firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians to get an 11-percent pay raise over five years, but ends free health care for those who retire between the ages of 55 and 65.

Now, Inspector General Joe Ferguson is taking aim at that uniform allowance in an audit that examined the “issuance, exchange and repair of uniform items” at the Chicago Fire Department’s Commissary.  That’s a storefront run by an outside contractor that issues and sells uniforms under a five-year, $11.7 million contract that expires in 2019.

The city provides free uniforms and free replacements on an exchange basis, unless items are lost or stolen, damaged beyond repair due to employee negligence or excessive weight fluctuations.

The uniform allowance — $1,250 or $1,500, depending on the assignment — is supposed to be used for the maintenance and cleaning of uniforms.

In his audit, Ferguson compared uniform issuances, exchanges and allowances at the Chicago Fire Department to similar spending in New York City, Philadelphia, Toronto, Dallas, San Diego, and Indianapolis.

The Chicago Fire Department issued fewer dress and work uniform items to new hires than most other cities and spent less per-employee than any other city surveyed. But, that comparative advantage is more than offset by an annual uniform allowance that is among the most generous in the nation, Ferguson concluded.

“Purportedly provided to pay for the annual maintenance and cleaning of uniforms, the allowance is completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use,” Ferguson wrote.

“In addition, CFD does not monitor or audit how [or for what] members spend their allowance once it’s disbursed. As a result, this substantial annual stipend, one of the most generous in the nation, more closely resembles an automatic cash bonus. It therefore merits rigorous scrutiny and reassessment in the context of the city’s 2017 bargaining round with Local 2. … The sizable uniform allowance given to CFD personnel represents an additional opportunity for improved budgetary transparency, accountability and savings.”

In the audit, Ferguson examined 58,257 transactions valued at $1.7 million over a one-year period ending on June 30, 2015 and found that 99.9 percent of those transactions adhered to department policy and management practices.

But, he also found that $535,757 — or 10.5 percent — of commissary expenditures made in 2012 and 2013 “came from a grant source that was not included in the budget proposal or appropriation” for the vendor-run store.

The Chicago Fire Department said that was an historical practice that it intends to change in the future to provide more transparency.

Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago has also made other changes in response to the audit. They include prohibiting firefighters and paramedics from procuring uniform items for other members and modifying the point during training at which candidate paramedics are measured for an receive uniform items to reduce spending on candidate for subsequently drop out.

In addition, the commissary vendor is now required to review past usage of individual members at the time of new transactions to reduce the risk of excessive purchases or exchanges.

Earlier this year, Ferguson concluded that the fire department could save at least $1.2 million a year and potentially millions more in overtime by hiring civilians to perform 34 administrative jobs that have nothing to do with firefighting or emergency medical service.

One of the positions targeted for civilianization was the job of commissary liaison charged with resolving uniform exchange disputes between members and the outside vendor. The job is currently filled by a CFD captain, the new audit states.

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New engine for Decatur

This from Bill Fricker:

Here’s a photo of the new pumper for Decatur, IL Engine Co. 1. – 2016 Pierce Impel ( 29142 ) 1,500-gpm /500-gbt
Bill Fricker photo
Pierce Impel fire engine in Decatur IL

Decatur, IL Engine Co. 1.
– 2016 Pierce Impel so 29142, 1,500-gpm /500-gbt
Bill Fricker photo

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CFD Deputy Commissioner McNicolas resigns after crash (more)

Excerpts from the

The third-highest ranking member of the Chicago Fire Department has resigned after failing a Breathalyzer test, but questions linger about why he has not been charged with driving under the influence.

Chicago Fire Department officials on Thursday night released a statement confirming that CFD Deputy Commissioner John McNicholas failed a sobriety test after a crash early Wednesday.

“The investigation thus far has found that McNicholas was operating his city vehicle outside of department policy, and that following a mandatory breathalyzer test that morning, McNicholas was driving under the influence of alcohol,” CFD spokesman Larry Langford said in a statement. “Yesterday, McNicholas opted to resign his position as Deputy Fire Commissioner and has since agreed to full separation from the fire department.”

Langford confirmed McNicholas also was issued a citation from police for negligent driving.

But sources tell the Chicago Sun-Times that McNicholas is unlikely to be charged with driving under the influence because the test was not administered by police responding to the crash. McNicholas was instead administered the test by the internal affairs division of the fire department … and police are not allowed to use a fire department test because it is measured on a different standard.

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi on Thursday confirmed that McNicholas was ticketed for negligent driving, but he said the investigation remains open. He did not comment on whether police administered the field sobriety test and said he could not comment on any pending charges.

Police said initially that no citations or charges had been issued just after the crash, but police and fire officials were conducting a joint and active investigation.

McNicholas tendered his resignation to department Commissioner Jose A. Santiago on Wednesday and is “fully cooperative with the Internal Affairs Division,” Langford said.

According to the fire department’s last chance policy, which is in their contract, anyone caught for an alcohol or drug offense can be placed on a type of probation where they are tested randomly for alcohol or drugs for a year. If they test negative during that period, their probation is lifted.

McNicholas will not be given that opportunity, sources said. But McNicholas will still receive a pension for his 36-year career with the fire department.

thanks Dan

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New engines for the Tri-State FPD (more)

This from Josh Boyajian:

I attended a wet down ceremony for Tri-State’s new Engine 521 on Monday. It will be running out of Station 2 as a jump company with the tower ladder. The new engine is in full service. They are planning on putting the new 511 in service sometime next week.

new fire engine for the Tri-State FPD

Josh Boyajian photo

wet down ceremony for new fire engine

Josh Boyajian photo

wet down ceremony for new fire engine

Josh Boyajian photo

wet down ceremony for new fire engine

Josh Boyajian photo

Tri-State FPD firefighters

Josh Boyajian photo

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