GFD chief responds to allegations of overtime fraud

STONE: Guam Fire Department Chief Daniel Stone speaks during the proclamation of Community Risk Reduction Week on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in the governor's conference room at Adelup. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Sen. Joanne Brown spent her time during Tuesday's budget hearing for the Guam Fire Department asking Fire Chief Daniel Stone about allegations that administrative employees were being paid overtime for hours they didn't actually work, in light of a complaint submitted to her office earlier in the year.

As Brown noted, the allegations came from within GFD, and are long-standing concerns that have lingered around the department. The senator said she wanted to formally ask the chief publicly for his response.

"There are allegations being made that people that worked at the administrative offices at Guam Fire are not working those additional hours they're being paid," Brown said. "Now the standard response publicly that has been made from one fire chief to the other is that our fire personnel in the administrative offices are assigned, or after their office hours, are going out to the different fire precincts and doing additional work."

Stone maintained that assigned administrative staffers are working their hours, to which Brown asked how that is verified.

"These allegations are coming from your side of the aisle. ... Again, these are long-standing allegations and they continue to follow the Guam Fire Department," Brown said.

The fire chief acknowledged that the issue surfaces time and again, but added that if anyone feels employees are falsifying hours, "I would ask them to come up to the headquarters and try to work those kinds of hours."

"Because, while those at the fire stations, they come in, they do their 24-hour shifts, not all of that is productive time. They have those rest periods," Stone said. "Whereas those in administrative are working all those hours. Not only that – they also carry those work hours to home."

Stone said he is able to verify through "work product," meaning the administrative employees are meeting deadlines and other expectations. There are also several layers of checks and supervision to ensure employees are working the hours, he said.

"Again, I think the only answer I can really provide to you, senator, is if somebody has the knowledge, information, evidence to the contrary, then I would encourage them to come out. Because if that's happening, I want to know about it. But as far as I'm able to see, ... people are where they're supposed to be," Stone said.

GFD reserved about $4.4 million in its fiscal year 2022 budget for overtime, although the total budget request of $31.5 million is essentially the same as the current appropriation.

An audit report released in May 2020 stated that over five years, through fiscal 2019, the Guam Fire Department's overtime expenditures increased by 44%. The Guam Police Department's overtime decreased by 33%, according to the audit report.

While GFD did not accrue unpaid overtime during the pandemic, about $327,000 of typhoon overtime premium pay dating back a few years is outstanding. These amounts normally are paid through Guam Homeland Security or the Office of Civil Defense. Documents have been forwarded to Homeland Security to address the matter.

Meanwhile, GFD is in final contract negotiations for the procurement of a new E911 system. Stone said he hopes a contract can be finalized within the next few weeks. But it will take 12 months to build out the new system, he said.

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