Only on 12: Augusta finance chair has 'no apology' after city admits 'screwing up' firefighters' sick time

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, July 24, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- An Augusta commissioner says he's sick of News 12 asking questions, but Augusta firefighters say they are sick of getting a raw deal.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham says the admitted mistakes were a simple error, but he says there is a conflict of interest that prevents him from voting to fix it.

"Chris," cried Brigham, "we don't want to go there. You and I have this problem. When I say that I'm finished ... I'm finished."

The comments come as we follow up on our exclusive investigation into how the city "screwed up" firefighters' sick time.

"To be human is to error," Brigham said. "And we are human."

The issue centers around the number of hours firefighters accrue each pay check. The hours were reduced from 5.31 to 3.69 and even zero for some with the new personnel policy manual. That is similar to the rate of a regular employee.

"Obviously, it wasn't taken into consideration," Brigham said. "We made a mistake that everybody doesn't work eight-hour shifts."

The hours have since been updated, but Fire Chief Chris James wrote a letter to city leaders requesting the lost sick time be restored for the firefighters.

"The quicker that we could take care of this, the better," James said.

"I think this is a problem that is going to get fixed," Brigham said.

The Firefighters Association was less than diplomatic on the topic.

"We have an administration that don't give a damn about public safety," said Charles Masters, president of the association. "That's what we have."

"What do you say to those guys?" we asked Brigham.

"I've already said everything I'm going to say on this topic," Brigham replied.

"No apology?" we asked.

"No apology," said Brigham about an issue that hits close to home. "My son has recently become employed by the city of Augusta as a fireman. I will not be voting on this issue."

They can't just give back the sick time because it would be considered a gratuity. The city is recommending increasing the level accrued for nine months. This should go before the commission early next month.


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