A Brandon firefighter has been terminated for what sources say was improper use of sick time.
Officials remain tight-lipped, but it is believed that on one occasion, the individual called in sick while vacationing outside of the country.
City manager Scott Hildebrand wouldn’t comment on the issue, just that the city is committed to investigating and acting upon all complaints or issues around the abuse of sick time.
"I can’t comment, as we don’t discuss personnel issues in the media," he said. "In general, our average employee sick time is starting to decrease in many departments. However, we will continue to monitor and investigate if necessary any sick time concerns to ensure sick time is used appropriately."
As the Brandon Sun reported last month, a staggering amount of sick time is being used by Brandon Fire and Emergency Services personnel, compared to all other city departments.
Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria) asked city administration to look into the issue after receiving complaints regarding the amount of accumulated sick time, as well as accusations of sick leave abuse.
"I’ll be very frank. If there are people abusing it then they need to be challenged for the reason why," Blight said last month.
The amount of sick time per employee in that department was an average of 132 hours. That’s more than double the average (52 hours) of all city departments.
Blight, a retired police officer and former police association president, said he knows that some firefighters run businesses on the side and wonders if that factors into the high number of sick days.
"We didn’t tolerate the abuse of sick time whatsoever," he said. "If I was still president today … I’d certainly bring it to the forefront."
Fire Chief Brent Dane could not be reached Monday. However, last month he said the sick time in his department needs to be corrected. In 2009, there were 4,863 sick hours, compared to 8,743 in 2012.
"That has a significant impact on my budget and a cost to the taxpayers," Dane said.
The amount paid out in 2012 for overtime related to covering sick time in that department was in excess of $220,000.
When contacted Monday, Brandon Professional Firefighters/Paramedics Association president Wade Ritchie also wouldn’t comment on the allegation that a firefighter abused sick time while out of the country.
"I won’t confirm or deny that occurrence," Ritchie said.
City administration is attempting to tackle the issue by working with unions and employees in what’s called an "attendance management program."
"Any time we receive information or something that requires followup, we will do that," Hildebrand said.
"As we said from the start, we made it really clear that sick time abuse will not be tolerated, and we’re going to continue to stand by that."