August 02, 2017 09:03 AM
Two former commanders in the St. Paul Fire Department, as well as a deputy chief, are under investigation for allegedly defrauding the department of sick pay, according to a document obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and a source with the city.
Recently retired Capt. Mike Hamburger “engaged in fraudulent and deceptive conduct related to requests and use of sick leave with pay” that was detailed in a letter written by Fire Chief Tim Butler earlier this month.
In the letter, Butler stated Hamburger “grievously violated the public’s trust,” and did “great harm to the reputation of all firefighters ... at a time when trust in government is low, yet cost of services to taxpayers is very high ...”
Hamburger denied the allegations in a phone interview Monday and called the investigation a “witch hunt.” He defended his use of sick time, saying it was rightfully earned during a 23-year career with the department.
Hamburger was previously reprimanded three times for abusing sick leave, according to the chief’s letter.
A source with the city says the fraud investigation involves tens of thousands of dollars in paid time off and includes a former district chief as well as current Deputy Chief Butch Inks.
Inks, who is also president of Local 3939, the supervisor’s union, confirmed the ongoing investigation Monday but denied the allegations.
“I am confident the truth will come out. I have plenty of documentation that supports that I did my job every day,” Inks said in a phone interview.
The investigation comes roughly eight months after 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS broke the story that the fire chief had criticized the use of sick time on weekend shifts -- calling it a “disturbing and costly pattern.”
At the time, Mike Smith, president of the union representing St. Paul firefighters, accused the chief of blaming rank-and-file firefighters for mismanagement in the department.
He expressed similar frustration with the current investigation, saying “(The administration) wants to blame somebody else for this mistake.”
The chief declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, according to a department spokesperson.
Mayor Chris Coleman issued the following statement on the allegations:
These are disturbing allegations that, if true, may have cost Saint Paul taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in stolen wages. SPFD is an outstanding fire department that provides exceptional fire suppression and EMT services to our city. The vast majority of fire fighters and paramedics come to work every day focused on their mission to keep residents of our city safe.
Joe Augustine – 651-642-4524
Updated: August 02, 2017 09:03 AM
Created: July 31, 2017 04:56 PM
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