CLE Firefighters Sentenced in Shift-Trading Case

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Twelve Cleveland firefighters Monday admitted to making illegal payments to co-workers to cover shifts for which they were paid.

They pleaded guilty to charges of complicity to receiving unlawful compensation, a first-degree misdemeanor, and were sentenced to serve six months in jail, with time suspended. They must also pay court costs.

The firefighters were indicted last May for theft in office, which is a felony, and misdemeanor charges of soliciting or receiving improper compensation.

According to a release issued Monday by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, “the pleas appeared to mark the first acknowledgement by firefighters anywhere in the country that they illegally manipulated a city’s rules on shift-trading, stayed away from the job for significant amounts of time and yet accepted pay and benefits as if they had been working.”

**For the entire release, click here.

The firefighters indicted all failed to work at least 2,000 hours, which represents roughly a year away from the job, according to the release.

According to the release, by paying others to work their shifts, the firefighters were complicit in violating state law that says public employees can be compensated only by a government agency.

“This prosecution aimed to end abuse and corruption within the Fire Department that was ripping off the city, endangering the public and risking the safety of other firefighters,” Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in the release. “We are confident that as a result of this prosecution, the Fire Department and its management will be held accountable in the future.”

The firefighters had been suspended without pay since their indictments.

The firefighters involved are: Peter Corso, 48, of Concord; Kevin Dever, 43, of Cleveland; Bernard Fronhapple, 52, of Rocky River; Robert Graham, 52, of Lakewood; Barry Kifus, 41, of Painesville; Kevin P. Kelly, 52, of Olmsted Falls; Thomas Jurcisin, 52, of Cleveland; Daniel Losteiner, 45, of Cleveland; Gary McNamara, 49, of Bay Village; Michael Milano, 54, of Broadview Heights; James Oleksiak, 44, of Cleveland; and Nicholas Rucella, 49, of Cleveland.

A thirteenth firefighter indicted in the case is Calivin Robinson, 52, of Cleveland. He is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 24.

A release issued by the firefighters’ union today said the following:

“What today’s announcement by the Court shows is that these fire fighters have been cleared of the charges that were the basis for their unpaid leave, and that they were simply participating in shift exchanges permitted under U.S. Department of Labor regulations. We want to remind the citizens we serve that during the entire internal audit process, public safety has never been compromised. It is our hope and expectation these fire fighters will be returned to duty effective immediately.”

The city said administrative hearings will now be scheduled for the firefighters.

For extended coverage on this story, click here.

34 comments

  • Gerri Vince

    Time suspended that’s wrong they should serve the time like anyone else would what makes them so special ? its not like anyone in jail would recognize them like they would a police officer who might have put them there .

    • Eyeofstorm

      Fired for what? They broke no rules. The city knew this was going on and always had, it never cost them a cent. Those were words spoken from the mayor to the Fire Union Pres. Now it is costing money. Now people strike off duty and the city has to pay someone time and a half to hire a body to cover for them. Real smart people running this city. Don’t you find it a little strange that all this came about after the city lost its battle to force only certain city employees to live within city limits.

  • Ivan

    This was nothing but a witch hunt. In the end, they will all get back pay because it is perfectly LEGAL to pay somebody else to work your shift according to federal law.

    The city was out ZERO, it actually saved them money. When somebody needed a day off, they paid somebody else to work it for them. Now, because of new “trade rules,” they simply take a sick day and the city has to pay somebody overtime to cover that shift.

    This was nothing but a vendetta against the FF’s because their union led the way in the lawsuit that changed residency requirements. This had been going on in the FD for over 80 years and was never an issue until the residency was overturned.

    • george johnston

      The idiocy of the ruling owes itself to the union. This is why we need to rid ourselves of public employee unions. Look at what happened. Firefighters stole thousands, $20,000 or more each, not jail time and they aren’t even made to pay back the money to tax payers. What BS. If this is your idea of a “witch hunt,” then we need more of them.

      • Eyeofstorm

        The only idiocy going on here is your comments. It cost the city nothing as long as they had a body there, period. Now its costing them plenty to hire overtime workers. Dip$hit.

      • Eual Brenner

        I agree with you George, some of these Unions have to go out. They are fading out, sooner or later they will be gone.

  • Eyeofstorm

    Its funny how the city of Cleveland is trying to cover up the FACT THAT ASSISTANT SAFETY DIRECTOR ED ECKART WAS GUILTY OF DOING THE SAME THING ( several retired employees contacted the city to let them know ) ALONG WITH JUST ABOUT ALL OF EMS PERSONNEL AND YET ITS ALL ABOUT THE BRAVE MEN WHO PROTECT OUR CITY. THEY ARE THE BAD GUYS.

  • jer

    WHAT KIND OF DETERRENT FROM ANY OTHER CITY WORKERS DOING SAME THING…..THEY SHOULD BE FIRED ,JAIL TIME AND PAY TAX PAYERS MONEY BACK.THIS IS A SLAP IN TAX PAYERS FACE

    • Ivan

      Fired? For what? It is NOT illegal to pay somebody to work for you – that is federal law. If it were illegal, the prosecutor never would have allowed them to plea to a misdemeanor.

      • george johnston

        Dummy, if it were legal then these thieves would not have been given the option to plea to a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are crimes. People don’t end up with a misdemeanor for something that is legal. People like you are the problem. Unions put this on us. Get rid of public employee unions. They are a cancer.

    • Eyeofstorm

      The money they were paid was passed along to the person who worked for them because the city doesn’t pay you to work someone else’s shift. Get a life you bitter @sshole. What happened, couldn’t pass the entrance exam to get on the Fire Dept.?

    • Eyeofstorm

      No he didn’t. The person who talked left the job immediately. This individual is smarter than the rest of the group and won’t roll over.

    • Ivan

      Unearned compensation? So you want them to pay money for having somebody else working for them? They already paid that individual that worked for them.

      Do you know WHY the city did not ask the court to have these guys reimburse them for the money they were paid when somebody else worked for them? It’s because the city would then OWE the guys that worked time and a half!

      The bottom line is that this was perfectly legal under federal law and it had been going on for over a half a century. It also SAVED the city millions of dollars over the years – guys would pay somebody to cover their shift for them instead of calling in sick and the city being forced to pay somebody else time and a half to cover that shift (which is what happens now that the city changed the trade policy.)

  • Nick

    Why dont you report on Bloombergs plan to take your guns away.
    I told you to stop talking money from the FEDS. REPORT REAL NEWS!

  • Steve

    This is totally outrageous..and there is always the guilty commenting on this to defend themselves. Legal to pay someone to work your shift? Maybe in the Firefighters Union. Get rid of Unions. This stinks to high heaven. Glad Fire Chief and Police Chief were fired. Now if these guys get their jobs back, I would move the hell out of Cleveland. You cant trust anybody!

    • Eyeofstorm

      I’ve got news for you @sshole. This has been going on in every Fire Dept. in the world since day one, also you uninformed horses @ss. The Fire Chief who was fired was not Chief when this was going on and the Police Chief had nothing to do with this. Tell me Steve, what white bread suburb is your parents basement in. Which I’m sure you reside in ( reside means live )

      • Steve

        Nice mouth. Do you eat with that? Can we assume you
        Are a city worker? Sounds like u r a guilty
        Firefighter or lazy/dishonest union employee

      • Steve

        Why not go have a shot and beer with Ivan? You two
        Sound like bff’s, probably both were pictured
        On tv tonight! Wow, you are a STAR

  • pappy

    Can you falsified a report on your job, and still keep your job? Can you steel cash from your employer and keep your job?

    That is what these firemen did and they work for us the tax payer not the politicians. Fire them. I Don’t care who they are related to or what they have on the city.

  • Boknows

    You guys keep posting that people paid guys to work for them instead of calling in sick. So you’re saying guys would call in sick to go work another job?? So they weren’t sick! So now the City has Firefighters calling in sick to go work a side job instead of paying a guy cash. If you don’t want to be a Firefighter or don’t have the time then just quit! There’s plenty of people who will be glad to take your spot!

    • SH

      These comments are all unreal… what the news continues to not report is that every single one of these shift swaps or call offs were signed off on by a boss- none of which you see standing up there. The chief that was fired was not fired for shift trading- though he did it too- because they all did, because it was common practice AND ALLOWED BY THEIR GENERAL ORDERS. That’s why it was all allowed to happen, it was permitted in the rules and regulations of the fire dept. This practice was never a secret to any city official, they just planned an attack when it served their own personal purpose. They all have second jobs because their schedule allows for it- also nothing new. Admittedly there are a few that took advantage, but to say that they are criminals is wrong. Nothing that they did was against the rules. This reporting is so horribly one sided. Every single one of you is at some point in your lives going to need help, keep that in mind when you call them lazy- they will come no matter what time you call and they will do their job, even if it means risking their own lives to do so. How many of you can say the same?

  • Brian

    These guys face department charges and probably will be fired. Read the last line. They were being prosecuted by the county. They now face administrative charges from the city. Wouldn’t be surprised if they were fired before they ever work another day.

  • Rust

    Solution… 1) Cancel the union and all of the ridiculous contract specifications in place that makes these jokers convinced this was right. If this is so right, why isn’t every badge holding Cleveland Firefighter in that court room getting punished? Because there are guys with a conscience that, even though the older boys in the “good-ole boy network did it, it still didn’t look or feel right so they stayed away. 2) Figure out a way to change the shift schedule from 24 on/48 off to something else. This way a firefighter won’t be able to successfully hold two careers at the same time. Surely the non-CFD employer would balk at the employee paying someone else to do their job, but no worries… I can plot out my work schedule to do both. Pay some chump $200 to take my shift at CFD, work both jobs and after 20. BOOM!!! Taxpayer pension for all the live long days and I still hold my second job I have been working!!!! Oh no Cleveland, I am not a bad person. I am just doing whatever it takes to ensure my family has what they need regardless of how I do it. I’m a Cleveland Firefighter by God and I deserve these kinds of perks. My union and others around the country tell me that every single day! And I believe!!!!!!

  • CLEV

    These men should have to pay the City back and should serve time. It is NOT right and shift should not be covered. What is worse, the firemen will be receiving pension credit for time they didn’t work! This is not fair to employees that work very hard to earn the pension they get! Besides, how difficult is it to report to work one day and than have three off! Most fireman have two jobs and make better money than anyone I know! Yes they risk their life, but it is a job they chose. They are not superman, they are as brave as the men who worok on oil rigs that can blow up, or pilots who or servicemen, or teachers who can get shot or stabbed anyday of the week by students.

    • SH

      So you would like every single fire fighter in the department to repay the city and serve time? Because you do understand they every single one did this, as it was a common and allowed practice? This is not something that was against any rule- these men in particular just took advantage… but again… they had permission from their bosses to do so. And fyi- not that it makes any difference- they work every 3rd day, not 4th.

  • D Stanger

    Why does this show on cnn as “Mom gave baby Meth” and when the headling is clicked on, it shows this story of the firefighters instead?

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