Cleveland Firefighter Terminated In Subbing Scandal

The Cleveland firefighter at the center of a major substitution scandal that involved dozens of firefighters, has been terminated.

Calvin Robinson, a 23 year veteran, was terminated yesterday. Last month he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of complicity to receiving unlawful compensation. Robinson has been on unpaid administrative leave since May 22, 2013.

According to news reports, Robinson paid other firefighters to work his shifts while he moonlighted as a substitute teacher, served as a football coach, and ran a day care center. He allegedly paid co-workers for roughly 8,500 hours, or 3-1/2 years of work.

A total of thirteen firefighters were originally charged in the scandal, with all 13 now having pled guilty. Robinson was the worst offender and the only one terminated. The city also announced that 19 supervisors will receive some form of administrative action for their role in failing to properly supervise those employees.

In response to the discipline announcement, Cleveland Firefighters, IAFF Local 93 released a statement:

The Association of Cleveland Fire Fighters is disappointed by the City’s inexplicable decision to terminate one fire fighter and pursue administrative charges against others related to a now years-old “internal audits.” As documented in the findings of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, the issues with shift trades resulted from “the near-total absence of any oversight by the City, particularly former Fire Chief Paul Stubbs.”

Fire Fighters voted overwhelmingly to improve the shift trade procedure in early 2012, and modern information management systems have been implemented. Yet the City is still unnecessarily focused on issues that have been addressed. The shift trade issue appeared to be fully resolved in February, when twelve fire fighters were returned to duty from improper administrative leaves. The issue resurfaced only after fire fighters voted to reject a collective bargaining proposal from the City in March, and later requested a detailed fire apparatus safety plan from City Officials just a few days ago.

Twice in recent weeks Ladder 1, the downtown ladder company, has been forced to respond to emergencies in high rise buildings in an old rescue squad without a life-saving aerial ladder or even a full complement of ground ladders. A similar situation occurred at the same time with Ladder 39 in the West Park neighborhood, prompting the request for a safety plan.

To date, no such plan has been received. Both the men and women of the Cleveland Fire Department, and the public, deserve better.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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