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What you need to know for 01/19/2017

Schenectady firefighters suspended over sick leave discrepancies

Schenectady firefighters suspended over sick leave discrepancies

Two Schenectady firefighters have been suspended without pay over potential sick time abuse.

Two Schenectady firefighters have been suspended without pay over potential sick time abuse.

City officials would not release the firefighters’ names. However, they said both firefighters were suspended Tuesday for failing to prove that they were legitimately sick.

The firefighters have called in for a lengthy period of time, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said, and have not returned to work yet. They also haven’t produced a doctor’s note to justify staying home.

“They’re required to produce documentation” if city officials ask for it, Bennett said. “It was requested and they did not produce it.”

Firefighters can use sick time for illness or off-duty injuries, according to their contract. City officials said it would be a violation of privacy to describe the illness or injury in these cases.

But the firefighters may lose their jobs over it. Mayor Gary McCarthy declined to comment on the case, saying he should not speak because he would have to make the final decision on whether to terminate the firefighters after a disciplinary hearing.

“I don’t want to look like I’m prejudging anything,” he said. “Just let it go through the process.”

That process starts with a 30-day unpaid suspension. If the issue isn’t resolved during that time, their suspensions will continue with pay, Chief Michael Della Rocco said.

It’s not clear how long the matter will drag out. If city officials file paperwork to fire the workers, they might be paid for months before a decision is made.

When the city fired police officers in 2010, several of the officers had been paid to sit home for two years. Some of them resigned just a day before termination, after fighting for years, and thus got to leave with a substantial payout.

They continued to earn vacation time while they were suspended — so when they resigned, the city had to pay each of them thousands of dollars for accumulated vacation days.

Firefighter union representatives did not return a call seeking comment.

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