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Firefighters in EMT scandal lose extra pay

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The 30 Haverhill firefighters caught up in the EMT recertification scandal are taking a hit to their wallets. They will lose the extra pay they were to receive as emergency medical technicians, Mayor James Fiorentini said. He said he has eliminated an item in the city budget that was to pay the firefighters an EMT stipend in the fiscal year that begins Thursday. The money — $58,000 in total — will instead be used to hire a public safety consultant to study the Fire Department and pay for overtime, Fiorentini said.

Fiorentini also said that as the investigation continues, he is not ruling out other disciplinary action against the firefighters.

The 30 firefighters had their EMT licenses suspended by the state Department of Public Health earlier this month for obtaining recertification without taking the proper training. They were among 207 firefighters and ambulance workers statewide, including some from Trinity EMS in Haverhill, who had their licenses suspended by the state. Trinity EMS serves several towns in Greater Haverhill and Southern New Hampshire.

The Haverhill firefighters' labor contract says they must have the certification in place on July 1 to qualify for the EMT stipend, the mayor said.

Firefighters receive an extra $1,500 per year if they are EMTs, and some receive more money for additional medical training.

Fiorentini said he will use $25,000 of the forfeited EMT money to hire the public safety consultant. The study, which city councilors have been urging, will review the department's command structure, look for ways to reduce overtime spending, and consider whether Haverhill should relocate any of its fire stations to provide better coverage, the mayor said.

“We have captains at every fire station, but other cities don't have that,” Fiorentini said. “And do we really need four deputy chiefs? We're going to get a public safety expert to tell us how we can do better.”

The remaining EMT money will likely be used to pay for overtime in the Fire Department, the mayor said. He said he will provide a complete plan for the money at tonight's City Council meeting, when the council is expected to pass the new city budget.

Last week, the state suspended the 30 firefighters from working as EMTs in Haverhill for nine months. He also placed firefighter Jeffrey Given on paid leave pending the conclusion of the city's investigation of the EMT recertification controversy.

Given is accused of collecting money from, and obtaining the signatures of, colleagues who were then recertified as emergency medical technicians without taking the required training.

Given, according to authorities, collected money and sample signatures of his EMT colleagues and passed them on to another person, who then would provide the recertifications. Unknown at this time is the amount of money collected and passed on in the scheme.

The list of firefighters who are barred from working as EMTs includes several senior officers, several former presidents of the local firefighters union, and a deputy chief who was runner-up to be fire chief, William Laliberty.

Greg Roberts, president of the Haverhill firefighters union, has refused requests to comment on the EMT recertification controversy. No Haverhill firefighters have come forward to publicly address the matter.

The city's investigation into the recertification matter continues and additional disciplinary action is possible, the mayor said.

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