Clark County Battalion Chief Terminated for Sick Leave Abuse

Clark County firefighters have been under investigation by the FBI for having conspired to use sick time for their convenience, drastically increasing overtime payments in 2009. In the latest round of news, Battalion Chief Renee Dillingham, a 24-year veteran and first female battalion chief in the county, is the second firefighter to be terminated for sick leave abuse. It is reported that around 15 to 20  firefighters were involved in the scandal and are under investigation.

It is alleged that firefighters used emails and maintained formal calendars to track how they would abuse the sick leave system.

In one of the communications,  Dillingham received an email from Battalion Chief Gina Geldbach-Hall stating: “I will be taking off June 10, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25 (all sick days if I can work it out…). Again, thanks. It is so much nicer having a scheduler I can work with.” Geldbach-Hall has since retired from the fire department.

Emails sent by Dillingham hinted at the existence of two work rosters according to this message: “Please do not post the August roster with SICK. I have added the other roster for posting and the sick is for you to take home.”

Public records show that Dillingham made $244,852 in pay and benefits in 2008 and her pay and benefits jumped 41% to $345,927 in 2009 and in year 2010 Dillingham earned an overall benefit of $274,309.

Dillingham was terminated yesterday, and has five days to challenge her termination.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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