FOX 5 has learned a D.C. firefighter on the payroll for nearly four years hasn't worked a day, but continues to be paid.
Internal documents obtained by FOX 5 show Natalie Williams Overton has been on paid administrative leave since May 2007. The fire department roster shows Overton marked as "ADL" and scheduled for Engine 14.
FOX 5 News learned she was placed on paid administrative leave surrounding an investigation into an alleged scandal involving payments surrounding CPR certification.
D.C's civilian EMS union representatives can't believe the issue is not resolved.
"The agency definitely has enough resources to investigate these cases in a timely manner,” said Kenneth Lyons, D.C. Civilian EMS Union President of AFGE Local 3721. “In my 25 years with being in the agency and almost 10 years of being president of the local, this is an oddity when it comes to civilian employees. This is an embarrassment and it’s an inconvenience and it’s a waste of taxpayer’s dollars. For the agency not to investigate this properly is just unbelievable.”
D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Pete Piringer says the department has waited for the Inspector General to complete its investigation.
Despite their own internal documents, the department maintains she's only been on leave for two years. Piringer says a complaint was filed in July 2008.
When FOX 5 asked why someone could be paid for two to four years without coming into work, Piringer responded, "I think that would be a good question to ask Inspector General’s office. This is an ongoing investigation. I think the department acted quickly, swiftly [and she] was placed on administrative leave.”
The Inspector General's office won't comment on an ongoing investigation. Even so, while the department waits, those like Overton on administrative leave continue to not only to get their salary and benefits, but also accrue vacation and sick time.
Here's what the case has cost taxpayers. Based on the union contract, the salary for a Class 1a firefighter is $65,568 per year. Add to that an estimated $7,024 in annual leave and $3,512 dollars in sick leave pay, which bumps her annual estimated yearly salary to $73,105.
If you multiply those times to the three and a half years Overton has been on paid leave, the taxpayers have paid this worker an estimated $255,867 for waiting for someone to decide if she should be disciplined.
"I think there should be an audit of the agency to determine exactly how many individuals are currently on some sort disciplinary leave and how long they’ve been on that leave," said Lyons.
The cost grows when you calculate that her position on Engine 14 still has to be filled. In fact, a roster obtained by FOX 5 shows as late as Monday, she was replaced with another firefighter coded "WDO" or working day off. The overtime has cost the city several hundred thousands of dollars.
“They did drop the ball and I think it’s unfair to the individual where these allegations are made, and it’s unfair to the taxpayer, who are now being told you will pay this individual to stay home for a period of two to four years," said Lyons.
The problem, according to union rules, is the time has long passed for Overton to receive any disciplinary action. The fire department is taking a hands-off approach.
"The case has been referred to the Inspector General’s office. We're waiting for them to conduct an investigation. At this point, it’s out of our hands and we don't touch it. It’s being investigated by another agency," said Piringer.
FOX 5 went to ask Natalie Overton for an interview, but we did not find her home. That may be because she was at work. Sources say for the last three years, she's been working as a security guard. By some estimates, the job pays $52,000 a year. This is while she continues to get her full firefighter pay. There are no rules which prohibit someone from working a full-time job if they are on administrative leave with pay.
"She's done nothing wrong. They are simply allegations at this time. I think the wrong here is to the individual. The wrong here is by the agency and not conducting a speedy investigation, especially when these allegations are significant and severe," said Lyons.
Sources say in all likelihood, when all is said and done, Natalie Overton will be able to go back to work and not face discipline.
Even so, she still won't actually do any work for a while. She's accumulated so much leave time, she'll have to immediately take a five-month vacation so she doesn't lose that time.
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