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Firefighter reinstated after calling in sick to work second job

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 7:58 PM
Last updated Friday, July 19, 2013 12:47 AM
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CORRECTION: Because of a reporter’s error, the first name of an Augusta Personnel Board member was incorrect. The member’s name is Ronnie Masters. A vote was also reported incorrectly. Aishia Leverett voted in favor of the reinstatement of firefighter Adam Krebs.

An Augusta firefighter fired in May for calling in sick to work a second job at Gold Cross EMS got a break Wednesday from the city personnel board, which overturned his termination.

Adam Krebs, awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star after surviving a 2005 IED blast in Iraq, said he “had no idea” that calling in sick could result in his termination, after he and fellow firefighters arrived at the same emergency call on the day he’d feigned illness.

“This is beyond what I imagined it would be. I would have used some other means,” such as available vacation time, to take off work, said Krebs.

But his absence, for which he was paid while simultaneously being compensated by Gold Cross, the city’s ambulance provider, caused Fire Chief Chris James to have to close Engine Co. 3 on Reynolds Street due to a shortage of personnel, James said at Krebs’ personnel hearing.

James said Krebs, who was commended by the Augusta Commission in February for his role in the rescue of toddler John Thompson, had resigned his job previously to take another one, then promised James exemplary service when he asked for his job back.

“He assured me that he would be dedicated, that he would do a great job,” James said.

His lie about being sick caused James to question Krebs’ “honesty and his dependability,” the chief said.

Board members took issue with a section of the city’s personnel manual calling for “termination” for the offense of taking paid leave to work a second job.

Board member Ronnie Masters, citing his experience as a retiree from Georgia State Patrol, said James’ punishment “didn’t fit the crime.” James, Human Resources Director Tanika Bryant and city Staff Attorney Jody Smitherman stated however that they had no other option under the personnel manual, which recommends only “termination” in a chart listing punishments for various offenses.

“I made the decision based on what was allowed and appropriate in the policy,” Bryant said. “We’re applying consistently what we have in our policies.”

Krebs, who was represented by attorney Ed Enoch and spoke briefly at the hearing, said he was only vaguely aware of the department’s staffing shortages, which James said were causing him to periodically shut engine companies and had nearly eclipsed the department’s overtime budget.

Board member Bob Finnegan questioned why faking sickness to work elsewhere was included in the manual with a handful of egregious offenses, such as attempting to overthrow the government and dealing drugs, for which termination was the only option.

Bryant, hired this spring, said sections of the manual, approved by the commission in 2010 “leave a lot to be desired... My Personnel, Policies and Procedures Manual has marks all across it of things that should be revised.”

“For whatever reason” the commission had approved the zero tolerance policy, Smitherman, a primary author of the manual, said. After the meeting, Commissioner Joe Jackson said he did not recall any commission discussion about that particular policy item during prolonged debate over its approval.

After a brief discussion, board member Thomas Atkins motioned for Krebs to be reinstated. He was seconded by J.R. Riles. Finnegan, Masters, board chairman Chip Barbee and member Charles Evans joined Aishia Leverett, Riles and Atkins in approving the reinstatement, while members Willie Mazyck and Latasla Gardner voted no.

Smitherman said she’d have to “consult with the client” before deciding whether the city will appeal the ruling.

Another decorated employee wasn’t as fortunate Wednesday. Blythe recreation specialist Angelo Collier, recently named employee of the month prior to his termination for selling a prescription to another employee, said he was attempting to help a fellow employee with a back injury when he accepted $30 for his Motrin 800 prescription. The board upheld his termination. Collier was demoted in 2010 for his role in the sale of Recreation community service hours to probationers.

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IBeDogGone
3015
Points
IBeDogGone 07/17/13 - 08:50 pm
6
2
Double Standards

It seems to me consistency was not used in these 2 cases. While I agree selling prescriptions is wrong, get real it was not a controlled substance and the employee that bought it should have gotten a reward for "Dummy of the Month". He could have just taken 4 200 mg over the counter pills and gotten the same results. Buying prescriptions is also not legal, did he get fired? Causing stations to have to close due to lack of personel could have cost a lot more lives than Motrin.

fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 07/17/13 - 09:45 pm
7
1
Not sure about this one, and maybe I'm reading ...
Unpublished

this wrong. Does this mean that Krebs can continue to call in sick (for illnesses real or otherwise) as an Augusta firefighter, then work for Gold Cross at the same time he is 'ill' and collect pay from both? Sounds like nice work if you can get it.

bclicious
770
Points
bclicious 07/18/13 - 05:55 am
0
7
It was wrong but!!!

What the firefighter did was wrong, but I feel his pain. What troubles me most in this blog is that nobody is asking the most obvious question of all. Why did this firefighter feel the need to work 2 jobs?

Glad you asked! Because ALL public service work officials (especially emergency response workers) do not receive enough funds to support their families. I know that there will probably be some yahoo who will read this and say, "You know, nobody forces anybody to become a firefighter or police officer". True statement; however, the above-mentioned story is what happens when you do what have to do to survive.

Also, it is true that it is not about the money, but I wouldn't want the firefighter, police officer, or paramedic who is helping me to be fatigued from having to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet.

fatherinevans
257
Points
fatherinevans 07/18/13 - 05:56 am
5
1
IBeDogGone

Selling certain prescriptions is wrong but that particular medicine is not a controlled substance and should be no ones business but those individuals. Taking 4 200 mg over the counter pills will not give you the same result. The 800 pills work ALOT better than the ones over the counter. If the station had to close due to 1 person calling in sick then the problem is not the worker...its the supervisor that doesn't know how to maintain his work force. The supervisor should be fired if anyone gets the ax.

corgimom
38280
Points
corgimom 07/18/13 - 06:43 am
5
1
Just so you know,

Just so you know, fatherinevans, by law, fire stations have to be staffed with a certain number of employees, in certain classifications, or else they must close. And perhaps you are unaware that Richmond County doesn't have a lot of extra personnel to staff for absences, thanks to a Commission that would rather build a Convention Center than hire firefighters. If other firefighters are on vacation, or are legitimately ill, then yes, someone calling in to double dip can cause a station to close.

I don't know, fatherinevans, can you understand that being short-staffed to fight a fire can result in firefighters dying?

corgimom
38280
Points
corgimom 07/18/13 - 06:47 am
4
1
"Selling certain

"Selling certain prescriptions is wrong but that particular medicine is not a controlled substance and should be no ones business but those individuals."

Sorry, Federal law says different. And it's dangerous. Perhaps you are unaware that taking high doses of Motrin can be dangerous and can affect someone's kidneys and liver. It's not as benign as you think, which is why it's only available by prescription and has to be done under a doctor's supervision.

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 07/18/13 - 06:48 am
6
0
Firing

This reminds me of years ago that a local TV reporter called in sick and was seen on Ft. Gordon, for personal reasons it appeared, and was fired. What would have happened if this fire employee had been injured while on "sick leave?" If he had no insurance with the part time company, would it be fair for Richmond County to pay for his health care? There are reasons one should stay home when calling in sick, unless going to the doctor or on some other health-related business.

Little Lamb
48896
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/13 - 07:41 am
3
1
Placebo

fatherinevans posted:

Taking four 200-mg over the counter pills will not give you the same result. The 800-mg pills work A LOT better than the ones over the counter.

Not so. Four 200-mg pills is exactly the same as one 800-mg pill. You might want to crush the pills mildly to get them to dissolve faster.

If one has actually done an experiment to see whether four 200-mg pills works as effectively as one 800-mg pill, and that one believes they don't; then that one is a victim of mental suggestion.

Little Lamb
48896
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/13 - 07:49 am
6
1
Fool me once

From the story:

Adam Krebs . . . said he “had no idea” that calling in sick could result in his termination, after he and fellow firefighters arrived at the same emergency call on the day he’d feigned illness.

Okay, the citizen volunteer personnel board overrode the city personnel manual. They let the man’s military valor trump his dishonesty on the job. Water under the bridge. Don't cry over spilt milk. Now it is up to fire department management to make it clear to fireman Krebs (orally and in writing, with Krebs’ signature on the reprimand) that he has had his warning, and the next infraction will result in termination. He won't be able to say "I had no idea!" the next time.

itsanotherday1
48179
Points
itsanotherday1 07/18/13 - 07:55 am
1
2
Eggsactly LL. It is

Eggsactly LL. It is prescription because the OTC dose is 400mg, and you should have medical supervision to take the higher dose since there is potential for organ damage and bleeding.

Little Lamb
48896
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/13 - 08:58 am
3
1
Sick Leave

Early in hunting season, and also on nice spring days when the fish are biting are prime times for sick leave abuse. I once worked for a manager who would occasionally visit the homes of workers with a history of sick leave abuse to check on them. He always took a bouquet of flowers along. You had better be either at home or in the doctor's office when he showed up.

john
1211
Points
john 07/18/13 - 09:39 am
4
0
no work ethic

while I commend and thank him for his military service, its pretty crappy to call in sick to your primary job to work a part time job. And for him to say he had no idea is dishonest. He is just sorry he got caught.

Watermedic
306
Points
Watermedic 07/18/13 - 12:04 pm
4
0
Really?

I have always thought that lying to a supervisor about being "sick" and then moonlighting was a firing offense.

Sweet son
11514
Points
Sweet son 07/18/13 - 12:06 pm
4
0
Wrong bclicious!

We taxpayers don't want to hear about firefighter's pay or lack there of. They took the job and they knew the pay. If you live beyond your means then you put yourself in a position to have extra jobs.

As a note on the extra jobs, as long as firefighters and others have been working 24 hour shifts they have had additional jobs. They choose to have these additional jobs but their primary responsibility should be to the job with regular pay, regular hours and benefits. I'm sure that most additional jobs don't carry the benefit package so where should they feel most obligated?

Bottom line: Don't call in sick if you are not sick!

gaptomom
143
Points
gaptomom 07/18/13 - 12:23 pm
2
2
Wouldn't want to work with him

Firing him MIGHT be a bit strong but least put a letter in his file, for being unethical to leave one place short staffed to go and work another and that doesn't address the issue of "double dipping" salary wise. If he felt the need to make more money he should do it on his regular day off. It's dishonest people like this that has been causing more and more employers to ask for doctor's notes when people call in even though it might not be an illness that requires medical attention. This only clogs up the doctors' offices and ER with people who are there only to get the required "work note" so they can go back to work the next day.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 07/18/13 - 12:47 pm
3
1
These people have lost their
Unpublished

These people have lost their minds:

Thomas Atkins motioned for Krebs to be reinstated. He was seconded by J.R. Riles. Finnegan, Masters, board chairman Chip Barbee and member Charles Evans joined Riles and Atkins in approving the reinstatement

my.voice
5160
Points
my.voice 07/18/13 - 02:17 pm
4
1
“This is beyond what I

“This is beyond what I imagined it would be. I would have used some other means,” such as available vacation time, to take off work" said Krebs.

Amazing someone with a brain would actually say this out loud. Fire his lying carcass.

ARFF1
4
Points
ARFF1 07/18/13 - 03:08 pm
2
0
Want to my surprised look?

First off the outdated policy manual needs updating. There should be progressive discipline which should include termination for sick leave abuse. Second, he knew it was wrong, he just got caught. If he had not got caught, he would have said nothing. Third, he flat out lied, that is black and white. Lastly, if he wants to use vacation time to work a second job, he is entitled to that, he has earned that time but don't lie about it. Lastly, we hear all across the US about cities laying off FF's, closing stations and unions crying foul and that layoffs will jeopardize public safety and here we have a situation that caused a station to be closed due to lack of manpower/staffing because a FF was "sick". At the very least, a day off without pay might be in order. The public has a right to expect thier civil servants to be honest if nothing else because in the end we work for them. What's really scary, there are those that think that this type of behavior is perfectly fine and see nothing wrong with it.

a crazy old man
30
Points
a crazy old man 07/18/13 - 03:19 pm
1
0
untrustworthy

He should have been terminated for lying and should have remained terminated for being a dishonest and untrustworthy liar.

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 07/18/13 - 03:38 pm
1
0
Am I correct `

in what I heard on the radio today?

He called in sick, dropping the manpower below safe staffing levels.

They had to shutdown the station and rework scheduling of those that did show up.

He placed his station, the station area and fellow workers at risk.

This poor judgement and these actions cost the taxpayers extra money by him calling in sick.

He then got paid by the taxpayers for sick leave and then worked "sick" for Gold Cross, which is subsidized by Taxpayer money and was paid again.

In short he got paid 2x and we got screwed twice plus over.

So please explain why was he was allowed to come back to work?

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 07/18/13 - 04:42 pm
1
0
He is a liar and a thief and
Unpublished

He is a liar and a thief and put the public in an unnecessary dangerous situation because of his greed. What more do you need, review board??

corgimom
38280
Points
corgimom 07/18/13 - 07:41 pm
1
0
Maybe he has friends in high

Maybe he has friends in high places. Or relatives. That's pretty much the Augusta way.

follower
92
Points
follower 07/18/13 - 08:00 pm
1
0
He's fortunate he doesn't

He's fortunate he doesn't work for me.

Does the board have any idea of the precedent they just set?

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 07/19/13 - 01:53 pm
0
0
corigi and bclious
Unpublished

you are right on....what you have are commissioners totally out of touch with what is destroying aug/rich cnty (''gub-i-ment housing prah-jeck-where the rats, roaches, and otgher vermin breed and put forth their stealing, drug dealing, uneducated, lazy, and shiftless spawns from hell, shootouts, thousands upon thousands of pregnant single women having no idea "who da babby daddie is")so instead od doing what is necessary (building more and bigger jails to house the rats, roaches, and vermin, getting out of the public housing business, hiring more police and fireman) being tghe self-serving lot that they are they know they can't get re-elected supporting or putting forth proposals to build prisons, hire more police/fireman, getting out of the public housing business so they would rater waste 100+ million dollars on a pipe dream (then give it to "ole billy-as a gift because he didn't get is horse barn a few years back) and run around using smoke and mirrors attempting to hide the decay affecting augusta. we were promised the tee center would create good paying jobs and improve the quality of life in augusta-RIGHT JOE!!! but it is built and nothing is happening, crime/criminal activity increasing downtown in the shadow of the tee center, on hte south side, the east side, and the west side...so nothing has changed other than more crime less police and fireman, low pay forcing this gentleman to get a second job just to feed his family. but you have "nook-nook, tech-9, and boogey" running around selling drugs shooting people and when caught given a slap on the wrist and turned loose to committ more crime (before anyone asks crime has a lot to do about this becasue as an emt this gentleman is a first responder and is first there to stabalize thugs like marquez who are shot in a never-ending black-on-black crime incidents). i am glad this fireman got his job back

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