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Cleveland launches internal audit of city's fire department

4:49 PM, Aug 1, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Mayor Frank G. Jackson ordered an internal audit of all certification records for all personnel in the Division of Fire, according to a statement from the city release just before noon Thursday.

The internal audit got underway at 10 a.m., when Assistant Director of Public Safety Edward Eckart, along with Public Safety's internal auditor, IT personnel and two Cleveland Police Detectives removed records, computer equipment and the training records database from the Fire Training Academy.

The records will be secured outside the Division of Fire for the duration of the audit, which includes not only EMT training, but mandatory firefighter training and Ohio Driver's License requirements.

The audit was ordered after a review of training records showed that Daryl McGinnis, who was sworn in as Chief of Fire in January 2013, had only 22 hours of training documented for the three year period from 2009 to 2012 prior to receiving EMT recertification last year.

The State of Ohio requires 40 hours.

Assistant Chief Patrick Kelly will serve as Acting Chief of Fire while the internal review process is conducted.

McGinnis will be assigned to non-supervisory, administrative duties at the Emergency Operations Center while the internal review and disciplinary process proceeds. State law requires that all firefighters are certified as EMTs and participate in ongoing training in order to maintain certification.

The City of Cleveland has notified the State of Ohio Division of Emergency Medical Services, which oversees EMT recertification for both EMS and Fire, of the deficiency of training hours for Chief McGinnis and has requested their assistance with the internal audit.

The internal audit is expected to take several months.

"I am disappointed that Chief McGinnis failed to meet this minimum requirement and have relieved him of duty pending an internal review and disciplinary process," said Mayor Jackson.

"But the real problem is that this is another example of a culture within the Division of Fire that betrays the public's trust. The audit we are conducting as a result of this will look at every firefighter's records to ensure that they are all in compliance."

In recent years, several internal audits have been conducted within the Division of Fire, primarily focusing on payroll activities, timekeeping policies and internal shift trades. The audits also identified poor record keeping related to overtime payments for mandatory training.

As a result of those audits, the City hired former federal prosecutor Ronald Bakeman to assist the Cleveland Division of Police Internal Affairs Unit in determining if there was any criminality involved in the shift trade practices of individual firefighters.

Thirteen firefighters have been indicted on felony charges as a result.  The previous audits led to a series of administrative changes in Cleveland Fire, including the implementation of a revised shift trade policy in 2012, enhanced supervisory training and the use of technology to ensure more accurate payroll record keeping.

In addition, as part of the integration of the Divisions of Fire and EMS, timekeeping and payroll functions for the two divisions have been consolidated under the oversight of a civilian manager who reports directly to an Assistant Director of Public Safety.

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