Fired Orange Co. firefighters defend selves during hearings into time use

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9 heard excuses Thursday from three firefighters accused of illegally padding their paychecks with your tax dollars by running personal errands while on the clock.

Those firefighters were ranked members of Orange County's Fire Department, but they're now out of a job following an extensive investigation.

On Wednesday, Channel 9's Kenneth Craig learned three of the six firefighters being investigated were fired.  On Thursday, Craig heard them defend themselves in audio recordings from their hearings.

The surprise part, Craig said, was that the firefighters said they didn't realize they were doing anything wrong.

The chief, however, said there was no excuse, and he had a hard time believing they didn't know.

One of the fired firefighters was Lt. Stacy McLean, who had more than 20 years on the force.

Last month, he was forced to defend himself against an investigation that found he spent hours doing personal things on county time in his work vehicle over and over again.

"If (I could) go back and redo all of this, I would," McLean said in the recordings. "I never thought for one minute, honestly, that I was doing anything wrong."

McLean and Lts. Eddie Brown and Willie James were all fired, accused of going home and running personal errands while on the clock.

Brown, who went home 34 times on the clock, went to church on county time and even took his daughter to school.

Brown defended himself, saying, "I'm glad it happened, because not only does it humble me, it's actually going to make me a better supervisor after going through this."

James, who often went right back home within 30 minutes of clocking in, didn't even put up a fight when questioned.

"I can only own up to it, you know,?" he said. "I've made some poor choices, obviously."

All three men were officers within the department and had been there between 10 and 25 years.