A cheating scandal involving Las Vegas firefighter recruits will cost taxpayers nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, a city official said Wednesday.
City spokesman David Riggleman said the city will foot a bill of $718,984, or $51,356 per recruit, for the 14 members of the latest academy class who have been barred from graduating.
That is how much the city invested in putting them through the 18-week academy.
The recruits, who were suspected of cheating on a written test, were slated to graduate on Feb. 14. Instead, graduation was postponed, and an internal investigation was launched.
Riggleman said the decision announced Tuesday to scrap the entire recruiting class was meant to preserve the integrity of both the city and its Fire Department.
“It’s been a very disappointing episode,” Riggleman said. “It’s something we want to make sure never happens again.”
He said the recruits were treated as employees and paid for their time in the academy. The majority of the cost per recruit was for pay and benefits, which amounted to about $30,000 each.
Other costs associated with the academy included vaccines, books and training materials, Riggleman said.
The recruits won’t have to return the money the city invested in them, Riggleman said.
The portion of the investigation involving the recruits is over, but other employees are still being investigated for possibly contributing to the cheating.
Riggleman said the investigation remains a “personnel matter” and declined to release any findings.
On Tuesday, Riggleman said, “The circumstances surrounding the written test process prompted us to not move forward with their graduation.”
The internal investigation was requested by the state fire marshal.
The fire marshal’s office handles testing and certification for most of Nevada’s fire agencies, including the Las Vegas Fire Department.
Under the voluntary certification program, the fire marshal’s office sends written tests with randomly chosen questions to the agency, which administers the tests and sends them back to the fire marshal’s office for grading.
Riggleman said the recruits who went through the latest academy will be allowed to reapply with the city’s Fire Department.
But those recruits will have to compete against other applicants and won’t be allowed to immediately return to the academy.
The city is considering a “lateral academy” in which people with past firefighting experience or paramedics can apply, Riggleman said.
He said such an academy would last 10 to 11 weeks and would hinge on receiving enough applicants.
The 14 recruits in this past academy were all rookies.
Public safety is not expected to be compromised, Riggleman said.
But firefighters probably will have to pick up slack in the form of overtime, which will be closely monitored, Riggleman said.
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review journal.com or 702-383-4638.