Union leader says firefighters not given fair chance at off-duty work



ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates found out that Orlando taxpayers could have to pay dozens of Orlando firefighters for off-duty work they didn't do.

That's because the union said those firefighters weren't given a fair opportunity for the extra off-duty work.

Channel 9 reported in early May how Orlando firefighters have been accepting cash for off-duty work, leaving city taxpayers uncompensated for the use of city equipment.

The firefighters union said its contract requires the department to post all off-duty job openings to give equal opportunity to all firefighters who may want extra income.

"We don't want anyone to play favorite, we don't want anyone to control certain events," union president Steve Clelland said.

According to Clelland, some extra-duty jobs are being assigned without being posted, including a weekly job at First Baptist Church on John Young Parkway. The union now wants the city to pay the firefighters who signed up for extra work, but weren't told about all the available opportunities.

"I've been doing this for 20-plus years and this is the first time I've seen this with government unions," Clelland said.

Orlando Fire Chief John Miller said he's among those who've accepted cash over the years for off-duty work and that he's even handed it out to other firefighters. But in a letter obtained by WFTV that Miller wrote ten years ago, he explains how extra-duty work was to be administered through the city "as in the past," for which the city would charge a 15 percent fee.

The city said the 15 percent fee is only for processing firefighters' off-duty pay and if it doesn't need to be processed, there's no cost. But the firefighters wear city uniforms and use city equipment at the taxpayers' expense for the private events.