Questions Remain About Firefighter Training

Tuesday, July 14th 2009, 10:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The investigation into the Tulsa firefighter training scandal sparked a heated exchange between city councilors and the firefighter's union on Tuesday.  Five TFD employees retired or were reassigned earlier this year over accusations that training records were falsified.  Now a Tulsa City Councilor says their investigation is at a standstill because firefighters won't cooperate.

The scandal over Tulsa fire department's training records continues to smolder.  Claims TFD may have falsified records have already prompted retirements, reassignments and a series of investigations.  The Tulsa City Council ordered its own investigation, which they say is now stymied by the firefighter's union.

01/29/2009  Related Story: State Investigating Tulsa Fire Department

Councilor Rick Westcott says the city auditor was charged with getting to the bottom of the scandal.  Basically, they want to know did the firefighters actually complete the training that they said they did.

"If they didn't receive their EMT training, then they were improperly compensated. If they did, then we want to clear their name. We don't want to paint them with this brush," said Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott.     

The auditor says he sent out more than 700 questionnaires to fire department employees, but only got 100 back.

"If a firefighter or union member is being questioned and the answers to those questions could possibly lead to disciplinary action they have a right to a union representative," said Local 176 Executive Vice President Chad Miller.

Miller says the questionnaire violated member's rights.   

"We're not trying to not answer questions. We're not trying to be dishonest or to hide the truth. We're simply trying to defend and protect the rights of our firefighters," said Local 176 Executive Vice President Chad Miller.

From the beginning, firefighters have claimed they did the training, it just wasn't documented.

"We are very highly trained.  There was absolutely no falsification of records.  It was simply a documentation problem," said Local 176 Executive Vice President Chad Miller.

"They provide excellent health care and emergency health care for the citizens of Tulsa that is not a question," said Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott.  "But, the question is did they take the training necessary to get that additional compensation or did they falsify the documents."

A question some say still hasn't been answered.