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.

  • Shane

    This is exactly the kind of thing that is destroying the fire service reputation in America. Obviously this is a pretty isolated situation but with Americans feeling the financial pinch they have set their sites on public employees and this definitely doesn’t help.

    Rolling Stone magazine did a story recently about how taxpayers are largely ignoring the “uber” rich with the venom and focusing on the people they actually relate too, public employees. When this kind of stuff comes out it just makes people already foaming at the mouth more enraged, leaving the rest of us to deal with it.

    Now more than ever fire departments need to be playing damage control and getting the word out to their customers. Let the taxpayers know that these are isolated events and why the local service is better. If they can’t do that than it might be time for a change.

    Thanks for the update Curt. As much as it saddens me to see these stories we all need to be aware of them so we can try to avoid them ourselves.

  • Steve

    Shane hit it right on the head. We all have to pay for some other peoples ignorant actions! They should be terminated.

  • ukfbbuff

    I agree about the “Damage Control”

    1st. Alameda City FD

    2nd.Another “Thumb In The Eye” for the Fire Service, over Excessive Sick Leave use.

    All it does is give the Mis-Informed Media Outlets a “Story” to Complain about How the Fire Service is made up of:

    Greedy, Under worked, Over Paid people.

    Some where along the line, these firefighters (?) forgot that they took the Job to:
    “Be of Service to the Community”

    and NOT “Easy Ways to make Money in the Fire Service”.

  • ole

    Terminated???, hell, she needs to be in jail and forced to return all that she stole.

    This kind of abuse is nation wide. Cal Fire is a disgusting bunch of similar thieves

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