Schenectady County

Schenectady firefighter out for a year axed

A Schenectady firefighter who has called in sick for a year was fired Wednesday.

A Schenectady firefighter who has called in sick for a year was fired Wednesday.

Jason Flego, a New York City resident who was hired in 2009, stopped working May 14, 2012.

That’s when he was injured in an off-duty accident, Chief Michael Della Rocco said.

Since then, Flego’s doctors have sent periodic notes saying that Flego could not yet return to work. But Della Rocco said he hasn’t heard from Flego himself — and doesn’t even know what Flego’s injuries are or how he suffered them.

“We haven’t had communication,” he said.

According to state law, the city can terminate an employee after a year if the employee cannot return from an off-duty accident.

But Della Rocco and Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett aren’t 100 percent certain that Flego won’t return. Flego can contest his termination in the next 10 days. If he asks, a hearing officer will decide whether he should be fired.

In that case, Della Rocco said, the department would likely have an independent doctor examine him to determine whether he can return to work.

Flego has received full pay — and even a raise — during his time out. He was paid $44,731 last year.

Della Rocco said the department is already short several firefighters due to on-the-job injuries.

“We’re riding short, so that compounds the problem,” he said.

He’s hoping to hire a replacement firefighter in time for the fire academy session that begins in August. By the end of the year, he said, the department would have a new firefighter.

“Someone who will be on duty,” he said. “It definitely would help.”

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