Spokane mayor orders audit as fire department’s overtime expenses spike

SPOKANE, Wash.– The mayor of Spokane wants to take a closer look at a three-month spike in sick time taken by people who work for the Spokane Fire Department.

Mayor Nadine Woodward is ordering the review because the fire department saw a spike in sick leave in the months leading up to Washington’s vaccine mandate. The City of Spokane said the review will include a forensic audit, which is expected to take several weeks to finish once it starts.

On Monday, the Spokane City Council announced it was considering adding $5 million to the budget to cover SFD’s operating costs through the end of the year. That money would cover the projected overage, which is based on the year-to-date run rate and historical data for the final three reporting periods.

City leaders said sick time usage showed a spike in August, September, and October that doubled the number of days taken in any given month, even during the early months of the pandemic. It continued an upward trend that began in April. In August, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccine mandate for state employees and health care workers.

The monthly uniform overtime run rate increased from $232,000 per pay period during the two years before the pandemic to $576,000 per pay period during the pandemic through October.

“We are still evaluating the circumstance, but what we have learned so far led us to take immediate action to gain deeper knowledge and understanding of the circumstances that created this situation, contain expenditures, and prevent future overages,” Woodward said.

Information from both the third-party forensic audit and internal reviews will be used to inform future labor contract negotiations, budgeting, and spending.

You can find more information about the review from the city here.

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