Posted: 3:05 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013

Report: Orange County taxpayer-funded cruises have happened before

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Eyewitness News first revealed last month how taxpayer dollars paid union leaders while they were on a cruise in the Bahamas.

More details have emerged about the union's alleged misuse of the county paid time.

Channel 9's Lori Brown discovered the practice of calling cruises "union business" has been going on for years.

According to a county report Eyewitness News obtained, this is the third time the firefighter's union received taxpayer-funded paychecks for time spent having a party on a cruise ship.

Taxpayer money did pay for union leaders to lounge around on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas for three days and explore Nassau and Cococay.

The union president approved his own taxpayer paid time and that of five others.

Each took 24 hours for the three-day cruise that they considered union business because it was a retirement party.

It turns out union leaders before him had done the same thing in 2011 and 2007.

One battalion chief even claimed 48 hours paid time for the 2007 cruise.

While they were on the cruise, other fire fighters were working overtime to man the fire stations.

"As a reasonable person you look at the use of union pool time, and you don't equate it with a cruise," Chief Otto Drozd with Orange County Fire Rescue said.

Drozd only found out about the union pool time being used for the cruise after WFTV's report last month.

A whistle-blower exposed the problem to Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs.

She and Chief Drozd are vowing to tighten up the loopholes in the county's contract with the union.

"We will seek to go back to the original intent which is to make things more efficient between management and labor," Drozd said.

Pages of union pool time requests show many other questionable uses of county paid pool time, but Eyewitness News may never know what the time was used for.

Under the current contract, the county cannot question just what the "union business" was.

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