BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo City Comptroller Mark Schroeder, who is also running for mayor, is sounding the alarm about the number of hours some fire dispatchers are getting paid for—in some cases for 48-hour work days.
Schroeder vehemently denies bringing up the overtime issue for political purposes, saying it is all about public safety.
Accountants from the Comptroller’s Office of Audit and Control found so many discrepancies in an audit of the Buffalo Fire Department’s books, Schroeder suspects fraud, and is referring his findings to the Erie County District Attorney and the New York Attorney General.
“How difficult is it to work 24 hours in one day?” Schroeder asked in a Friday morning news conference, “I would say the answer is, impossible.”
Yet, the audit showed fire department dispatchers logged in 24-hour shifts 137 times last year. The audit also showed dispatchers being approved for 48-hour shifts 7 times.
The result, the Buffalo Fire Department rang up $10 million in overtime last year, with most of it going to civilians, rather than firefighters.
Schroeder faulted Mayor Byron Brown, “They have done a dismal job. So the Mayor of the City of Buffalo, the Fire Commissioner, and the management team of fire, they have done an inadequate job here.”
Schroeder did give the mayor credit for reining in costs in the police department, but he said managers in the fire department were uncooperative.
For his part Mayor Brown did not seem to find anything wrong with a dispatcher working a 48-hour shift, citing vacancies in the fire department that have now been filled, “They were open positions. Those positions have now all been filled, and those new dispatchers that have been hired are going through training right now.”
And when it comes to public safety, the mayor says they have to be more flexible, “We have been more tolerant of overtime expense because we want to make sure the safety of our residents, businesses, and visitors is paramount in the City of Buffalo.”