Gilbert FD battalion chief under investigation for misuse of sick days - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Gilbert FD battalion chief under investigation for misuse of sick days

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Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2014 10:30 am

An investigation into allegations a Gilbert Fire Department chief misused his leave time is expected to end later this month.

Gilbert Public Information Officer Dana Berchman said in an email the town anticipates it will receive a report on the investigation into the alleged misuse by Battalion Chief David Rodriguez in approximately three weeks. Rodriguez remains on administrative leave that began March 26, and the town hired Keith Sobraske, of Investigative Research, Inc., to investigate the allegations.

The situation began on Nov. 7, 2013, when Division Chief Wes Kemp received an anonymous letter indicating an unnamed battalion chief, presumed to be Rodriguez, requested a Gilbert firefighter use time off to work in Forest Lakes. Rodriguez serves as the chief of the Forest Lakes Fire District in Coconino County, according to the organization’s website.

The letter states a similar request was made to other firefighters to cover openings on Forest Lakes’ trucks, and it alleged it was not a one-time incident.

Additional allegations arose indicating Rodriguez used his own vacation time to work in Forest Lakes.

Town attorney Michael Hamblin wrote in an email using sick time inappropriately contradicts town policy, including town code that states employees cannot take sick leave to work a second job. Gilbert code also classifies feigning sickness as worthy of disciplinary actions; those encompass written warnings, suspension without pay, transfers and demotions, and dismissal.

Other potential infractions include the violation of the fire department’s codes of ethics and conduct. The former forbids employees from engaging in outside employment that may conflict with their primary duties.

United Mesa Firefighters President Bryan Jeffries, whose union represents Gilbert firefighters, said it’s common for firefighters to work for more than one department at a time to supplement their income.

“That’s been going on as long as there’s been firefighters,” he said.

Jeffries, who said he has known Rodriguez for several years, described him as a well known and respected firefighter who has done good work in Gilbert and beyond.

Rodriguez has also received accommodations from organizations like the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association, which awarded him its chief officer of the year award in 2010.

Jeffries said Rodriguez has acquired an attorney and is not taking comment, and he added the union’s role is to ensure due process is followed during the investigation.

“If town rules were broken, there will be consequences,” he said.

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