More than 12 Las Vegas (NV) firefighter recruits were dismissed based on cheating accusations, and City Manager Elizabeth Fretwell says she does not believe their latest explanation for the suspicious incident, according to news reports.
The former trainees are suspected of cheating on an academy exam. The incident began in February 2013, and was recently brought back into the public eye after Fretwell met with the former trainees and their attorney Adam Levine on July 10. During the meeting, the former trainees told Fretwell the proctor allowed them to take the exam as a "group test." Fire safety training officer Michael Jackson was the proctor, and is no longer employed by the city.
Soon after the meeting, Fretwell sent a letter to Levine saying she did not believe their recent explanation for the incident in question. She added that the trainees failed to "openly and accurately" answer questions about the testing irregularities, and that it is hard to believe a "group test" would be allowed in a standardized test setting.
Prior to the meeting, the trainees had been questioned about the incident on multiple occasions. They never before mentioned their "group test" explanation, a fact Fretwell says cannot be overlooked.
A day before the trainees were set to graduate, the state fire marshal identified suspicious results for written exams on handling hazardous materials. The graduation was at first postponed, but was later cancelled and the entire class of trainees was dismissed. By this point, the city had already invested more than $700,000 in public funds on the trainees, and now has to restart the application process for a new class of firefighters.
The trainees have filed a case for reinstatement with the state Local Government Employee Management Relations Board, which could take up to a year to process and resolve. The state fire marshal is also investigating whether or not the trainees can be certified, and the city is conducting its own investigation that has not yet been released.
After the cheating incident prompted the city to dismiss 14 firefighter trainees, the Las Vegas Fire Department decided to recruit more firefighters. The LVFD received the maximum 500 applications in 24 minutes after the job listing was posted on the city's Web site, and will soon accept about two dozen applicants into its academy.