Wyandotte County, KCK fire officials release statement following report on fire department shift trading

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and the KCK Fire Department issued a joint statement Thursday night following an audit that found some firefighters were being paid for shifts they didn’t actually work.

Unified Government County Administrator Doug Bach and Interim KCK Fire Chief Kevin Shirley released the following statement:

“Trading time is an accepted, legal practice which is allowed under federal law and the labor contract between the Unified Government and the KCK Firefighters Union. The issue facing the Unified Government is when the trading time practice does not follow policies and procedures.

“In 2017, the Unified Government Board of Commissioners directed UG staff to examine the issue. The information gathered will be utilized to review and evaluate the trading time practice making sure it complies with Fair Labor Standards Act provisions and negotiated contract terms.

“In the next several months, KCK Fire Department management and Unified Government administration will analyze the data collected, implement administrative changes, and bring recommendations for changes or improvements back to the Commission for consideration.

“Any recommended policy changes are subject to collective bargaining and will be discussed during labor contract negotiations with the Firefighters Union for the 2019 contract.

“This issue is portrayed by some as the Unified Government versus the KCK Fire Department. This is absolutely not true. The KCK Fire Department is an important part of the Unified Government. Firefighters are valued employees who save lives, while frequently risking their own.”

Trading time is a legal, common practice in most fire departments across the country, including KCK. It is allowed under the contract between the Firefighter’s Union and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County.

The audit report called out over two dozen firefighters for abuse of the practice.

According to the KCK firefighter contract, employees can trade up to 24 shifts a year. The idea is that if a firefighter “trades” with a co-worker, the person initiating the trade will still be paid for the day they took off, but will work for the person who worked for them at a future date. So it all evens out.

The Unified Government report claims that only 6 out of 391 firefighters “traded” an equal number of hours, resulting in those firefighters being paid for time they did not work.

What is not included in the report are details behind the pay and trades.

Mark Holland, CEO and mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., issued the following statement on Wednesday:

“This report reveals widespread corruption in our fire department and the taxpayers need to be made aware of it. The safety of our firefighters and our public has been compromised. Individuals have done this for their own financial gain. That is the definition of corruption.”

Holland, who says a firefighter threatened him on social media, called for a special commissioner’s meeting Thursday night to discuss the audit’s findings.

Watch the full meeting in the video above.

Not enough commissioners attended the meeting, so the meeting was not considered official. That means no ordinances were allowed to be passed and the meeting won’t go in the official minutes.