D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells wants probe into fire/EMS overtime spending

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Photo - mechanic working on a vehicle
mechanic working on a vehicle
Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,Tommy Wells

Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells called on the D.C. Inspector General's Office to open an investigation into massive overtime pay in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

Wells called the high number of fleet management employees earning overtime "egregious" in his letter to Charles Willoughby, the District's inspector general.

All together, 25 D.C. workers received a combined $1,021,242.07 in overtime pay. Of those 25, 19 of the top overtime earners in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department are mechanics, according to Wells' letter.

"I am requesting your attention, because of this matter's potential for fraud," wrote Wells, a potential mayoral candidate for 2014.

On Wednesday, Ed Smith, president of the DC Firefighters Association Local 36, said he supported Wells' request for an investigation.

"I believe it's necessary," Smith said. "People need to understand how the money is being spent." However, he cautioned that an overworked staff might better explain the spending, rather than fraud.

"We're one of the busiest departments in the nation," he said. "I think they need more people, more mechanics on duty."

A single heavy mobile equipment mechanic, George A. Maxfield, earned the most overtime in the entire department, raking in nearly $98,000 in addition to his annual $57,741 salary. He was also the top overtime recipient the previous fiscal year.

In his letter, Wells said the department anticipated the staffing level to continue throughout fiscal 2013.

Fire Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has attributed the overtime spending to necessary equipment repairs and poorly scheduled leaves of absence. He has said the department plans to reduce overtime.

Kenneth Lyons, whose union represents the mechanics, said he supported the inquiry and said it was fair to raise questions about how overtime was allocated. However, he said that given the heavy workload mechanics face, the fact that mechanics received overtime was not surprising.

Fire and Emergency Medical Services declined to comment Wednesday on Wells' call for an investigation.

"We have not seen the letter yet," said Lon Walls, a spokesman for the department. "We're still reserving comment until we get that letter."

A spokeswoman from the Inspector General's Office said it does not disclose what investigations are ongoing.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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