Auditor: Portland firefighters used city water on personal trucks

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City officials began an investigation after an anonymous tip

generic portland fire and rescue 07152015_180814

FILE – Portland Fire & Rescue vehicle.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Auditor’s Office found evidence that firefighters used city water to wash personal trucks, according to a new report.

According to the report, city officials investigated a tip about a firefighter washing a personal vehicle on city property. The tip from last June alleged that a firefighter used city resources for personal use and performed personal business during work hours.

The report referenced an administrative rule prohibiting personal use of city resources, which includes water.

“The firefighter acknowledged he washed his personal vehicle using city water,” said the report. “His personal vehicle matched the vehicle in the tip, and he was on-duty the night referenced in the tip. The firefighter’s supervisor also confirmed that the firefighter was working that day and drove a vehicle as described in the tip.”

According to the auditor’s office, the firefighter, supervisor, and the fire bureau’s human resources business partner all confirmed that it has been an accepted practice for firefighters to wash their personal vehicles at fire stations using city water.

Though managers may view this use of city water to wash personal vehicles as insignificant, said the city, the bureau must uphold its responsibility to enforce city rules and consider other aspects of this type of violation.

The auditor’s office said that using water as personal use could impact public perception, turn into a widespread practice and appear wasteful of city resources.

“A member of the public was concerned enough about the misuse of city resources to report it. The bureau risks appearing indifferent to legitimate compliance issues by trivializing them,” stated the report. “It also risks the appearance of using a double standard to assess conduct, because it is unlikely the bureau would ignore a community member who attempted to wash a personal vehicle at a fire station.”

City officials said the fire bureau should define and provide guidance on what is permitted and what is not for both managers and firefighters. Recommendations include adopting a policy to clarify what is and is not considered personal use of city resources and sharing information about the policy with staff.

The bureau told the auditor’s office that it would draft the policy but that washing personal vehicles at fire stations using city water is an entrenched and broadly accepted practice.

“The bureau said it will work with human resource’s labor relations staff if a new policy requires bargaining. Once the new policy is complete, the bureau will implement procedures for training and monitoring,” said the city.

The report also makes clear that the firefighter in question was not off-task during work hours.

KOIN 6 News reached out to the Portland firefighters’ Association, IAFF Local 43 for comment. We did not hear back by deadline.

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