Eighteen Boston firefighters are under investigation by the state for allegedly faking their EMT training while pocketing roughly $2,000 in overtime for taking the life-saving brush-up classes, Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser confirmed yesterday.
The jakes were snared as part of a statewide sweep by the Department of Public Health that has netted some 200 EMTs suspected of paying private instructors to sign off on bogus recertifications.
``I was disturbed to find out that there would be this pattern of falsification of training records,'' said state Commissioner of Public Health John Auerbach. ``We expect more of public service people working in the health-care field.''
Fraser said no one in Boston has been disciplined yet and the jakes who faked their results are still on the street.
``Once we receive the names and information we will conduct a swift internal investigation,'' he said. ``I find it totally unsatisfactory behavior. I think its a breach of trust.''
The state probe is being run by the Office of Emergency Management Services, which falls under the public health department. State officials said if fraud is involved, the cases could be forwarded to Attorney General Martha Coakley's office for criminal prosecution.
Auerbach would not say how many instructors are suspected of handing out phony recertifications, but he characterized the total as a ``limited number'' and said their license to train EMTs has been ``stripped.''
Auerbach said the investigation began about a month ago and has spread across the state as sleuths from his office fan out to follow leads.
``Most of our information is coming from interviews with firefighters or with EMTs directly involved,'' he said.
Haverhill has reportedly removed 29 firefighters from EMT duty while it probes the allegations.
In Hamilton, four people - among them the former police chief - were indicted on fraud charges last summer as part of an investigtion by the attorney general into sham recertification classes that were never held.
Auerbach said the embattled EMTs are being told to get recertified and are allowed to work the streets until the investigation is done. He said once his probe is over, his office can suspend an EMT's license, in addition to any punishment their local departments mete out.
A source said many of the 18 in Boston were properly recertified as recently as Tuesday shortly after they were interviewed by state investigators.
Two sources said the Hub firefighters were meeting at bars and restaurants instead of going through the 24-hour refresher course and 28 hours of continuing education.
Fraser said Boston has 900 firefighters who are also certified EMTs. They are paid 37.5 hours overtime for completing the work, which comes to an average of about $2,000 each.
May 27, 2010