Mayor Holland alleges ‘widespread corruption’ by firefighters; Mayor-elect Alvey says ‘gross misrepresentation’

by Mary Rupert

Mayor Mark Holland

Mayor Mark Holland, in his last week in office, is alleging that some Kansas City, Kansas, firefighters are engaged in “widespread corruption” in paying money for other firefighters working their shifts, and alleges the practice is jeopardizing the community’s safety.

However, Mayor-elect David Alvey’s reaction to this issue was that it wasn’t widespread corruption.

“I think it’s a gross misrepresentation to describe the process as ‘widespread corruption’ in the Fire Department,” Alvey said Wednesday night in a brief interview following the Board of Public Utilities meeting. Alvey is scheduled to take office next Monday.

The Unified Government Commission is holding a meeting on the topic at 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 4, at the Commission Chambers, lobby level, City Hall, 701 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kansas.

The end-of-the-year fire report is contained in the UG agenda located at www.wycokck.org, under agendas. Mayor Holland called the special meeting on Tuesday.

Mayor Holland sent out a Facebook message and also sent out a robo telephone call on Wednesday and Thursday about the issue.

His Facebook message read: “A recent end-of-the-year report has exposed widespread corruption in our Fire Department that is jeopardizing the safety our firefighters and our residents. I have called a special meeting to discuss the findings of the report and discuss how these practices are contributing to our taxpayers paying twice the amount for the same level of fire protection that other cities do. Please tune in at 7:00 pm to UGTV or on the Unified Government YouTube channel to see a presentation (linked below) about how this corruption is costing us valuable resources and putting our safety at risk.”

Mayor Holland reports alleged threat to KBI

After Mayor Holland’s Facebook and robo calls went out about the meeting, a social media post was allegedly made by a firefighter that the mayor reported to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, according to a news release this morning from the mayor’s office.

The social media post, according to the mayor’s news release, was “You might need security detail when you start witch hunts like so …”

The mayor’s news release called the threat “intolerable” and alleged that the fire union leadership had a “hostile mentality.” In the wake of the threat, according to the mayor’s news release, he called on the UG commissioners to “stand firm and not allow a few people in our Fire Union to intimidate them.”

Ordinance change proposed tonight

A change to the UG’s ordinance is proposed that would not allow UG employees to receive compensation from any source other than the UG for work or services they perform as part of their job. This would not apply to police officers who are serving as security officers, according to the ordinance, and it would not apply if the UG administrator gives permission for it.

According to the report on the Fire Department contained in the UG agenda, the contract allows trading time but the practice is selling time. The report stated that only six of 391 firefighters traded an equal number of shifts, and that 237 firefighters split $920,000 in taxpayer dollars for time not worked.

The report alleged that selling time created an unsafe work environment, with 15 firefighters exceeding a 24 trade limit, and some working hours in a row without adequate rest. The report did not address the possibility of firefighters who may be allowed to sleep during their shifts if there is not a call.

The UG previously discussed this issue in 2016 and 2017, and after an audit in 2016 pointed out the payments for shifts, the UG implemented a system for tracking the shifts. The firefighters’ contract that was negotiated by UG officials and approved by the UG Commission last year did not specifically say that firefighters couldn’t trade shifts, or accept payment for them.

Alvey comments on fire report issue

Mayor-elect David Alvey (File photo)

While Mayor-elect David Alvey said Wednesday night he did not yet have a chance to look at and read the data in the end-of-the-year fire report, he said it would have to be studied. He made some brief comments about the issue to the Wyandotte Daily after the Wednesday, Jan. 3, Board of Public Utilities meeting.

“My understanding is shift trading is revenue-neutral,” Alvey said. “If there are any abuses, we need to look at it.”

He said he understood that shift trading was done to achieve flexibility for the firefighters and the department itself. He said he talked with firefighters who told him they use shift trading for tasks such as taking care of sick kids.

Alvey added his personal opinion is that this issue would blow over.

Some of the examples in the fire study concern firefighters who are union representatives. It is a fairly common practice in America for many union representatives at large employee organizations to work on union issues, as part of their jobs, and still receive their pay during that time. They represent other employees who may have a problem.

When asked what he thought about Mayor Holland recently leading an effort to raise the mayor’s salary, to take effect in four years, Alvey said, “I didn’t do this for the money, so whatever money comes, comes.” He said he will be taking a pay cut in compensation when he becomes mayor, leaving a job that paid better at Rockhurst High School.

Previous news stories on the issue of firefighters trading shifts and the firefighters’ approved contract with the UG are located at:

Special UG session to be Jan. 4 on firefighters trading report
http://wyandottedaily.com/special-ug-session-to-be-jan-4-on-firefighters-trading-report/

UG contract with firefighters approved
http://wyandottedaily.com/ug-contract-with-firefighters-approved/

Firefighters say they’ve reached tentative agreement with UG on contract
http://wyandottedaily.com/firefighters-say-theyve-reached-tentative-agreement-with-ug-on-contract/

Firefighters upset about getting silent treatment at UG fire study meeting
http://wyandottedaily.com/firefighters-upset-about-getting-silent-treatment-at-ug-fire-study-meeting/

Fire study calls for 5 percent cutback in personnel, consolidation of four stations, and more funding for facilities and equipment
http://wyandottedaily.com/fire-study-calls-for-5-percent-cutback-in-personnel-consolidation-of-four-stations-and-more-funding-for-facilities-and-equipment/

7 thoughts on “Mayor Holland alleges ‘widespread corruption’ by firefighters; Mayor-elect Alvey says ‘gross misrepresentation’”

  1. I hope they can do something about this tonight. It does not sound like Alvey is willing to take it on. $1 million for work not done. Wow! And the retirement costs for all those people not working!

  2. If Mayor-elect Alvey claims the shift trading is revenue neutral, he needs to provide sufficient data and reporting to support that statement. A lot of data is included in the report to be presented tonight. It points to a group of about 30 firefighters trading away more than the agreed-upon number of shifts (one fire captain traded away every single shift last year and still got paid!) Simply saying “it’s revenue neutral; it will blow over” will not suffice.

  3. Alvey says it’s all going to blow over. And it will because . . . it’s Wyandotte County. It’s all we can expect. Corrupt to the core.

  4. From the report there seems to be interesting discrepancies in both the amount of shift trades taken and shift trades reciprocated. While revenue neutral in a dollar for dollar sense, it is not revenue neutral in terms of liability insurance. This report does one thing, it runs the risk of insurance providers for the city to raise rates (as now there is proof that people who are not of the same skill-set are taking the spots of higher ranked people). But with this report if both sides can understand that it is in their best interest to find a way to root out misuse of the shift trade system, then we can get a better and more efficient Fire Department in KCK. This is likely a bargaining chip for the next contract negotiation, and will be used as hard evidence for modifications to be made to the current shift trade design. Alvey is likely not going to do anything that might get him in hot water with the Fire Department as they backed him during his election, and he’d like to get re-elected next vote.

  5. It looks like a bunch of firefighters are only party time employees only working half of the year. I wish I could work part-time for full-time pay. What a great racket for those taking advantage of it! But obviously this is wrong. Be a full-time firefighter or go find another job.

  6. Revenue neutral? If the firefighters actually follow through and complete the shift trade, then yes, the transaction would be revenue neutral. But if you look at the auditor’s report, almost a million dollars was paid to people who didn’t complete the trades. They did not work. Now the only way this can be “revenue neutral” is if someone didn’t get paid for time they did work. Are we supposed to believe that’s what happened?

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