Las Vegas city manager letter questions integrity of fire recruits accused of cheating

A group of Las Vegas firefighter recruits accused of cheating on an academy test failed to “openly and accurately” answer questions about the botched exams that led to their dismissal, according to City Manager Betsy Fretwell.

In a letter to attorney Adam Levine, who represents the trainees, Fretwell said explanations for suspicious test results were insufficient and undermined the integrity of the recruits.

“In the end what I cannot understand or overcome is that the testing irregularities were not openly and accurately answered to by your clients during the interviews, not just once but on multiple occasions,” Fretwell wrote to Levine in a letter dated Monday. “It may have been difficult for them to honestly answer, but that is what was expected of them.”

The letter is the latest turn in a saga that dates back to February when the day before recruits were scheduled to graduate the city announced the ceremony would be postponed after the state fire marshal identified suspicious results for written exams on handling hazardous materials.

About a month later the city announced the recruits wouldn’t graduate and the matter was still under investigation.

The recruits were dismissed after the city had invested more than $700,000 in public money in the class. In addition to getting no return on the spending, the city had to restart the application process for another class in order to ensure a new crop of firefighters for the department.

The letter followed a July 10 meeting between Fretwell and the former trainees.

At the meeting the former recruits told Fretwell the tests were taken as “group tests” and the practice was allowed by the proctor, previously identified as fire safety training officer Michael Jackson who is no longer employed by the city.

“Some would say that it is simply not plausible to suggest that any person who took such a standardized test under the circumstances presented here could not honestly believe the matter was not an individual test, or that a ‘group test’ was allowable,” Fretwell wrote.

She went on to point out the former trainees neglected to give straightforward answers in interviews with investigators.

“The fact remains, however, that the answers given during the interviews do not comport with what was offered during our meeting, and these differences cannot now be overcome,” Fretwell wrote.

Levine did not return calls for comment.

The former recruits have filed a case with the state Local Government Employee Management Relations Board seeking reinstatement, but that process could take a year to resolve.

The city’s investigation into the debacle hasn’t yet been finalized and made public. The state fire marshal is also doing an investigation which would determine whether the recruits can obtain certification.

Jackson’s status is also uncertain, pending the outcome of investigations, according to Scott Johnson, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 1285.

Johnson said he’s anxious to see the results because it appears the city is making decisions on the issue and the union still doesn’t have the information it needs to move forward.

“They are making pretty critical decisions, you are talking about 15 people and their livelihoods,” Johnson said. “Hopefully they will release it soon so everyone has the facts.”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at or 702-383-0285 .