Eleven of Cleveland’s firefighters pleaded not guilty to theft in office and soliciting or receiving improper compensation, charges that stemmed from accusations that they illegally paid co-workers to cover most of their shifts.
The firefighters were suspended without pay last week and each face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted of the felony theft charges. The eleven firefighters could also be subjected to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a seven-year ban from public employment if convicted of the misdemeanor charges of soliciting or receiving improper compensation
The firefighters’ indictments that came just a couple weeks ago, mark the first time firefighters in the country have faced felony charges for “caddying,” which illegally freed them to work other full-time jobs or run companies while receiving money and benefits from the city at the same time.
The charges rose from city auditors’ investigation that reported firefighters consistently abused a policy that allowed them to trade shifts with their colleagues.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty stated in a news release that the accused firefighters each failed to work at least 2,000 hours, the equivalent of about one year of their scheduled time.
As of right now, each of the men has been released on a $5,000 personal bond, as granted by the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.