CLEVELAND -- A veteran city lawyer is being suspended and demoted for failing to answer a firefighter's hypothetical legal question about a practice that's landed one former firefighter in jail.
A firefighter recently gave Mayor Frank Jackson a copy of a February 2010 email that suggests the city had been alerted to the possibility of firefighters paying colleagues to work their shifts.
The practice is against state law and retired firefighter Timothy Debarr will do jail time after pleading guilty to such behavior.
Attorney L. Stewart Hastings is being suspended 30 days without pay and demoted to a staff lawyer's position for failing to follow up on the inquiry.
Hastings was in a high-level position that included dealing with safety force issues.
On Feb. 9, 2010, Captain Anthony Luke emailed Hastings, asking it if would be legal for one firefighter to pay another to work their shift.
Hastings responded, "I will have someone in our section do some research on this. My first reaction would be that it may not be legal. A more detailed answer will follow."
But it never did.
On Feb. 22, Captain Luke asked about his inquiry in a second email to Hastings.
Hastings responded he would remind the person he assigned to research the question.
But the question was never answered.
Mayor Frank Jackson and Safety Director Marty Flask had been teling reporters they were unaware firefighters were doing this.
Mayor Jackson said, "It's disturbing to me...it was bad decision-making."
A special prosecutor's probe of possible abuses of firefighters' sick time and shift trades will take until late May or early June to complete.
The city has claimed up to a fourth of the firefighters may have engaged in inappropriate practices and been paid money they should not have received.