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Sisolak questions off-duty firefighters’ use of county vehicles while doing charity work

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Yasmina Chavez

Firefighters prepare for their fundraiser, “Fill The Boot,” on Friday April 13, 2012 at the corner of Rainbow and Flamingo .

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 (2 a.m.)

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Firefighters prepare for their fundraiser, "Fill The Boot," on Friday April 13, 2012 at the corner of Rainbow and Flamingo .

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak is questioning off-duty firefighters’ use of county fire trucks as they solicit donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association at valley intersections.

Sisolak — whose criticism helped spur a department policy change prohibiting firefighters from doing charitable work while on duty — has placed an item on Tuesday’s commission agenda to air questions about the use of department trucks, which some complain makes it appear firefighters aren’t abiding by the policy.

At least one county resident has written Sisolak, complaining that it appears firefighters are collecting donations while on the job.

“I was under the impression that the Clark County Fire Department was no longer going to be collecting donations while on duty,” John Carter wrote in an email a week ago. “Today, (April 6) … Heavy Rescue was at Sahara and Decatur. While there were numerous members and some may have been off duty, some were wearing their gear and the truck was parked there in the dirt lot on the northeast corner (which is actually Las Vegas).”

Sisolak looked into it and said the department has 17 reserve vehicles, which are used when other fire vehicles are out of service. They are also used for parades and other events.

Sisolak said the chief isn’t bothered by the use of those vehicles by off-duty firefighters, but Sisolak is and wants the County Commission to talk about whether that policy should be changed. His concern is liability.

“If one of the off-duty firefighters gets into an accident, does the county have to pay for it because it’s a county vehicle?” he asked. “I hope the firefighters are collecting a lot of money. But we have to look at this policy.”

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Firefighters fundraising on the corner of Rainbow and Flamingo for "Fill The Boot" on Friday April 13, 2012.

Firefighters are also walking between cars with fire boots asking motorists for money, Sisolak said. The county prohibited them from doing that a few years ago, when they were still fundraising while on the clock. In response, they shifted to collecting in front of supermarkets and other locations.

Carter wondered why firefighters should be allowed to “beg on the roads” since other citizens might get ticketed for doing the same.

In fact, 22 years ago, Republican Assemblyman Brad Goetting, who was a firefighter, sponsored a bill that let local governments adopt ordinances to allow charitable solicitation from street medians.

There’s no telling how the seven members of the commission will see the reserve-vehicle issue. But commissioners have become increasingly willing to challenge firefighters in recent years, especially after recent reports found sick leave dropped by huge percentages after two firefighters were fired for abusing sick-leave.

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Discussion: 47 comments so far…

  1. @ Buddy...

    "It must be nice to be a fat cat multi-millionaire politician who is so rich and disconnected from what it's like to actually care for a cause rather than to simply throw money at a cause for political gain."

    Yup.
    The whole 'let's bang on Firefighters for doing charity work' is wearing wafer-thin.

  2. Thank you Mr. Sisolak for again pointing out the obvious. You and I would be fired for using company vehicles and company time to promote a private agenda no matter how great the cause.

  3. County Firefighters do (off the clock) volunteer work that benefits our community. An example is when they visit for school career days with trucks and equipment, dressed in gear. It communicates their care and real presence to children and adults. There should be a rider in the county insurance policies that allow for community causes. And if there currently isn't, then Mr.Sisolak can see to it that there is.

    It is a very positive image to have them parked in a center to be approached by the public. If there is concern about it being on the clock, simply post that this is community volunteer service on a sign in English and Spanish, to comfort those concerned about such.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. Why do firefighters need to drive a fire truck to the intersection? The fire truck doesn't participate in the activity of soliciting donations.

    The fire truck takes up an enormous amount of room for a non-emergency and gets around 4 mpg. Use a County car instead. If the Chief doesn't mind using the trucks, he shouldn't mind using one of the spare fire cars as it is easier to find a parking space by the road and doesn't guzzle expensive diesel.

  5. What Sisolak in the media again and Schoenmann writing the article for him again, and again, and again, and again.
    Does everyone get the picture!!!!!!!

  6. Most likely the taxpayers will be responsible if a County Fire vehicle was used whether by off duty personnel or on duty. The Fire Chief has no business in permitting the use of Fire Vehicles in non official business. He needs to education himself. Off duty firemen should be able to ask for charity donation but they need to be legal like everyone else. It is also questionable as to whether they should be permitted to wear their uniforms and gear while off duty as well.

  7. So the nonsense continues I see. The county has so many problems that need attention, yet somehow Mr. Sisolak continues to kick this dead horse. It also must be so nice for Mr. Sisolak to have two healthy children who are not in constant need of medical attention. Not everyone has been blessed in such a way. Every charity event that any county entity gets involved in is a nice breath of fresh air, a government entity actually out to help the public instead of the usual nonsense, who would of thought this guy would go after someone actually doing good for people? Move on and fix a real problem, stop making them! Didn't Commisioner Sisolak give 200,000 taxpayer dollars to his girlfriends charity which is now being investigated by the FBI? That's politics!

  8. Used to be, when I was a kid, we would run to climb all over the fire truck. I always wanted to be a fire fighter, the trucks were an impressive sight, and we had would Bombard the men in their uniform with all hinds of questions. These guys aren't just doing a collection for charity, they are also selling themselves to the public, sorta like recruiting for the job. Sisolak is an Idiot,that should never be placed on that job again when his time is up-----just leave the guys alone they're doing a good job. Until you ever get the chance to walk a mile in their shoes, don't knock it...............

  9. I was at Flamingo and Rainbow Saturday morning" Firemen were walking in and out of traffic coming up to cars with their boot it was a dangerous distraction. Sadly, we have had numerous pedestrians killed on sidewalks, in crosswalks and yes, jaywalking" NO ONE should be allowed to walk in and out of moving vehicles or vehicles stopped at a light" It's an accident waiting to happen". Collecting for MDA is a very good cause, but not at the risk of a life". It's the job of our County Commissioner's to ask questions concerning how our tax dollars are being spent, and what is the liability factor for tax payers?

  10. My objection has always been (and continues to be) that this activity implies an official government endorsement of a private charity. Although I am not aware of any religious connection to MDA, I would have a very real problem if the firefighters were doing this on behalf of, say, the Salvation Army.

    As mentioned in the story, there is a very real issue of the government deciding what charities are appropriate. It is better to ban the practice altogether.

    I am not opposed to the firefighters doing this on their own time, but it must be done in such a way as to not be seen as an official government endorsement.

    A reasonable compromise would be for the firefighters to be dressed in jeans and union t-shirts to indicate they are firefighters and using only the "boot." The use of county vehicles is questionable at best.

    On the other hand, I would not have any objections if the charity being supported was Toys For Tots as that is basically unique in being an official government charity established and operated by the USMC and USMC Reserves.

  11. Not only would "You and I" be fired for private use of company resources, we'd, maybe, even face criminal charges for frivolously squandering such.

    And walking in and out of moving traffic or vehicles stopped at a light (or anywhere on the public roadways) is just asking for trouble. Anyone doing that should be criminally charged and heftily fined.

    Asking firefighters to act responsibly (especially after the gaming-of-the-system issues of late) should not be considered "picking on" them, I'd call it being prudent.

  12. Sisolak's War On Charity continues unabated. Will someone please expose this self-agrandizing clown?

  13. William Hill---
    How do you get "War on Charity" from reasonable questions about the use (or mis-use)of tax-payer funded resources?

  14. FIRE ALL OF THEM! For desert we sure don't get fires and even if we do, that's why we have homeowners insurance. Cut the department by 75% and who cares if the home burns an extra 20 minutes for firefighters to arrive, again that's why we have homeowners insurance.
    Fire trucks from multiple fire houses show up to a small accident just to get credit on the books like they're busy.
    FIRE FIGHTERS ONLY WORK 8 DAYS A MONTH... DID YOU GUYS HEAR ME 8 DAYS. Why? Well that's because when they sleep there they get paid too! Wow I want that for my job too. So would the guy at McDonald's. I mean after all you never know when someone is gonna want extra fries with that!

  15. Who picks the charities? The fund for Al Queida on the list? Under another name? We should NOT allow this to continue. Your charity might be a fraudulent non-profit or even an ordinary non-profit that is being skimmed by unethical honorary chairmen.

  16. The_Next_Opinion, your preceding comment will not be removed. Honest opinons without malice are not generally removed.

  17. To my fellow bloggers;

    I always get a bad feeling when I see a government agency requesting money from the general public. It appears to have an air of coercion associated with it whenever the uniform or official identification is used no matter how low key. A protection scheme comes to mind. I support Commissioner Sisolak's efforts and hope a suitable solution is achieved for this good cause. Just an old cop reflecting,

    Gordon Martines

  18. Let's set some ground rules:

    No public employee, hourly or salaried, may participate in any fund-raising activity while on the clock. No GS cookies at work, no soliciting fellow employees, nada;

    No elected official may participate in any fundraising [save for his/her political purposes] for any non=profit or NGO at all. To do so would exhibit favoritism towards a particular charity. Nor could any elected official be on any board, commission, advisory group, etc of any non-profit or NGO. Same reasoning applies.

  19. Over the weekend the firefighters were soliciting for donations on the Strip, making them no better than the card slappers, vagrant beggars and costumed characters. Only the firefighters got to use county property, county fuel and county supplied costumes to help their begging.

    If begging for change is considered a vile activity when a homeless person does it, why is it not equally vile when a firefighter does it? At least when I give a buck to a homeless guy I know every cent is going to that homeless guy and not to any administrative overhead.

    With one trip to the Strip the firefighters demonstrated how the activities on LVBLVD have been and will continue to be protected under the 1st Amendment.

    Sad how many people choose not to understand that.

  20. @JeffFromVegas --- I wasn't saying the 1ST Amendment was evil, just providing historical context. I wish more people understood that the very rights they exercise complaining about the card slappers extends to the the card slappers.