The Firefighter Who Burned His Colleagues

You may call it embezzlement, but charitable union officials have a more polite term: Misspending

Another OIG case excoriated the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department for abusing its "union activity leave," the equivalent of the city's union leave time. The OIG's report, released in April 2002, stated, "Our review concluded that abusive practices had occurred, that the county-funded union activities exceeded $640,000 in a 21-month period, and that there were no adequate oversight tools in place to monitor the propriety or justification for such expenditures." (Although no criminal charges were brought, the OIG made several strong recommendations to remedy the situation.)

Until some other agency investigates and makes a case that this is more than an internal union matter, Miami Fire Chief Bill "Shorty" Bryson says he can't do anything about it. If he meddles in union matters, he says, "I could get slapped with an unfair labor practice [complaint]. I've got to keep my nose out of it." So Beckler's conduct will not be reflected in his personnel file or be a factor in his annual evaluation.

But it's not as if Chief Bryson is eager to become involved. Pidermann says he briefed both the chief and former city Manager Carlos Gimenez, who happened to be fire chief before Bryson, on Beckler's actions and the fact that the union was handling it internally. Both gave him their blessings, Pidermann says. And no wonder. They are, after all, brother firefighters.

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