The ongoing investigation in the city's firefighter scandal — wherein guys paid others to work their shifts while collecting their full paychecks and never fully repaying the hours — got a little more interesting this week when Frank Jackson released an email from a fire captain to a city law director, sent two years ago, that laid out the pay-to-not-work scheme.
Jackson had previously said that until last year's audit, the city had no knowledge that firefighters were living in other states and dolling out hundreds of dollars to co-workers to cover their shifts. He said he learned about the email in a meeting with the firefighters and that releasing it was the right thing to do. Jackson also said he gives a sucker to every kid he passes on the street and pets every dog he sees. Just the right thing to do.
Anthony Luke penned the note to Chief Assistant Law Director Stewart Hastings in February 2010. He asked if the scheme was legal. Hastings said he would assign the query to a lawyer to research. It appears he never did.
In response to Luke's inquiry, Hastings, who handled all public safety issues for the city, promised that he would assign the matter to another attorney for research. But he added, "My first reaction would be that it may not be legal."
When prodded for an answer two weeks later, Hastings wrote: "Not yet, but I will remind the person I assigned the task."
Jackson said Monday that upon quick inspection, it seems Hastings never assigned the job to another attorney. When confronted last week, Hastings said he did not recollect Luke's inquiry, Jackson said.
The mayor said he believes Hastings' inaction was the result of irresponsibility and poor decision-making, rather than an unethical connection to firefighters involved in illegal shift-trading. But starting today, Hastings has been suspended for 30 days without pay and will return to a demotion and pay reduction, Jackson said.
What a magnanimous gesture by Mayor Jackson. What an easy scapegoat in Hastings.