9 Investigates: Orlando firefighters under fire for off-duty work, cash payments



ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates is looking into the way some Orlando firefighters are making money on the side, because it could be costing the city's taxpayers thousands of dollars.

The firefighters union is hearing that some firefighters are being paid cash for off-duty work without any documentation, even though they're using equipment bought and maintained by taxpayers.

Channel 9's Kathi Belich has been digging into the story since last week. She talked with the union president, Steve Clelland, who said he's meeting with the fire chief about the issue on Wednesday.

But the fire chief downplayed it when Belich asked him about the overtime issue last week, saying Wednesday's meeting is just about off-duty procedure.

The city of Orlando requires large events to hire off-duty firefighters for public safety. On Monday, Clelland told Channel 9 he's finding out that firefighters are being paid sometimes in cash and sometimes directly by the vendors rather than through the city, sidestepping the city's 15 percent administration fee.

The union said that violates its contract, which requires vendors to pay the city and then the city pays firefighters, withholding appropriate taxes.

"I had someone come to me and said they've worked, they've made several thousands and they've never received a 1099 for it," said Clelland. "No one has reported that income from the vendor or the city side."

Clelland said all off-duty work should be documented when taxpayers' resources are being used. 

"In their equipment, in their uniforms, in their trucks," he said.

Clelland filed a grievance and has asked for off-duty records going back to January 2011. He wants to know who worked, who supervised, how much they got paid, how they were paid, who paid them and how much the vendors paid in administrative fees.

Clelland said government employees should never be paid in cash.

"That's not supposed to happen. We don't take tips. We don't get paid cash. What we earn is reported. Every taxpayer should know exactly what a firefighter made, did, worked," he said.

But late Monday, the city told Channel 9 firefighters have been paid directly by promoters, sometimes in cash, for years.