Firemen's Ball

How you gonna keep 'em down on the job, once they've seen OT?

Instead the department assigned then-captain Fernando Fernandez, who earned $115,264 in overtime between 1999 and 2001, to oversee the renovation. Fernandez, who is now the department's logistics division chief, was paid that handsome OT while overseeing the project.

The expenditure was justified, Suarez said, because Fernandez is a general contractor, which allowed the department to pull the building permits necessary to renovate the HQ.

David Paulison hand-picked Fernandez to oversee the project. "I wanted someone who I trusted and who would look out for the best interests of the department," Paulison explained. "Even if [Fernandez] cost us money, we got what we wanted; the project was done on time and on budget."

Yet despite their defensive rhetoric, the MDFR brass is initiating several reforms to address the auditors' conclusions.

Stringer said the department has implemented a fast-track training program to get state-certified firefighters applying to the county out in the field more quickly; this will cut down on OT. In early August, Stringer said, the department deployed sixteen new firefighters who graduated from the accelerated program.

He added that the department has received approval from the county's budget office to fill vacancies before they occur. "In the past, we could only hire when the vacancy actually occurred," he said. "Now we are bringing people in early once we identify an anticipated vacancy." This will also cut OT.

And, "The request must have my signature to be approved," Stringer said.

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