Caney Creek Fire Department needs a new booster truck, but it will have to wait, because the money earmarked for that purchase is going to six current and former employees as compensation for what had been considered volunteer time when the hours were worked.
When CCFD Chief Ray Flannelly took over 18 months ago, he immediately saw something was amiss. The acting chief Flannelly replaced, Wayne Buxton, was consistently allowing off-duty paid firefighters to also volunteer.
“That’s a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act,” Flannelly said. “If you work in the same capacity (while off-duty), you have to be paid.”
Chief Flannelly put a stop to the practice in March 2010, when all members of the CCFD had to choose between being “duty crew” or “volunteer.” None were allowed to be both, although some were perfectly willing, he said. Flannelly thought the issue was resolved.
In the months that followed, some of the firefighters left and took full time jobs elsewhere, and some were let go, including former Chief Wayne Buxton. He was terminated after various violations, including taking the only rescue truck out of territory to get a hamburger, leaving the community unprotected.
It was Buxton, the Chief said, who called a few months later trying to negotiate a deal. Chief Flannelly says Buxton told him he wanted $30,000 back pay for “volunteer time” worked prior to when Flannelly stopped Buxton’s practice of allowing firefighters to be both paid duty crew and volunteers. Otherwise, Buxton would file a complaint with the Labor Board, he said.
Chief Flannelly took the information to the board, who chose not to act. Several months later, they were notified of an investigation by the Department of Labor, who ultimately decided the Buxton and five others were owed back pay.
Within the next 30 days, these former employees will receive the following amounts, which total $19,064.49:
Richard E. “Huggies” Hughes $10,719.40
Courtney Moody $5,562.83
Dalton “Wayne” Buxton $2,470.56
David “Kyle” Alexander $197.70
Two current employees will compensated in the amounts of $76 and $38 for minor clerical errors found during the audit. Chief Flannelly said they have no choice but to accept the money since it was decision by the Department of Labor, but it is important to note they are current duty crew members in good standing and were not involved in any way of the complaint filed. It was just as the Labor Board reviewed all records they discovered the error on the two not being paid several hours of overtime.
The Chief said he was disappointed about the booster truck that cannot be purchased now, but glad this situation is resolved and looking forward having this distraction behind him and being able to again fully focus on leading his department in serving the community.