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Buffalo Fire Dispatchers boost overtime earnings

Chris Caya WBFO News

Alarm bells are sounding over an audit showing civilian dispatchers in the Buffalo Fire Department racked up thousands of dollars in overtime.

City Comptroller Mark Schroeder's new audit, based on the Fire Department's certified payroll, shows several civilian dispatchers worked 24-hour shifts on 137 occasions last year. And Schroeder says, some dispatchers even worked 48-hour shifts.

"I don't think it is possible. You know people have a life. They have a family. They have other responsibilities. So they're going to be at one place for 24-hours? I don't think so. And 48-hours? Forget about it," Schroeder said.  
What's most troubling, he says, is fatigued emergency dispatchers are a public safety hazard.

Mayor Byron Brown says the overtime was due to vacancies in the department.

Credit Chris Caya WBFO News
Mayor Byron Brown says "no one disputes" he runs "fiscally conservative government."

"All of those vacant positions have now been filled. And the new dispatchers that have been hired are going through training which will be concluded in a month," Brown said.
Schroeder says, that he recommended the Fire Department hire additional civilians to reduce overtime more than a year ago. Since then, dispatcher's overtime jumped 67% - increasing the average worker's pay by nearly $13,000. 

Mayor Brown says, when it comes to public safety he's tolerant of overtime expenses. "Because we want to make sure that the safety of our residents, businesses and visitors is paramount in the city of Buffalo," Brown said.

Schroeder says the focus of the audit is on the "mismanagement of the Fire Department's civilian employees." He says, in his "opinion" the spike in overtime is "fraudulent." The Comptroller shared his findings with the city's Corporation Counsel, the Erie County District Attorney, and the New York Attorney General's Office in Buffalo.