News

Fire training captain works 40 hours, but gets paid for 56

Menlo Park Fire Protection District board approves special agreement for position

With six new firefighters hired by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District this year, and the addition of four to six more planned early next year, the district has approved a special pay package for one of its firefighters to take on a training captain assignment.

District officials -- saying that attracting an internal candidate for the 40-hour-a-week job could prove difficult since district firefighters are compensated for working 56-hour weeks and can receive substantial overtime pay --agreed to an unusual pay package: continue to pay the training captain at a 56-hour-a-week rate for working 40 hours a week.

The special agreement with the firefighters' union that the fire board approved in July gives the training captain an additional 10 percent pay bump for taking on extra responsibility.

A similar temporary agreement has been in place for the past year, without the 10 percent pay increase.

The training captain earns overtime for hours worked beyond 40 a week and continues to accrue paid time off as if he were working 56 hours a week.

For the past year the position has been filled by Captain Tom Ellis, who will continue in the position. The agreement says the holder of the position -- which includes writing lesson plans, developing tests, and giving training -- must compete against other applicants every two years.

The arrangement means the training captain receives a raise for working 16 fewer hours a week than he did before taking on the job. Captain Ellis will receive $278,527 in salary and benefits before overtime (which he can work on his days off) and payouts for unused vacation and sick leave, according to the staff report on the agreement.

Fire board member Chuck Bernstein, who cast the only vote against the agreement at the July 18 meeting, said he feels the arrangement turns the district's rationale for highly compensating firefighters because of the dangers of their jobs "on its head."

After the July 18 meeting, Chief Harold Schapelhouman said moving "from a 56-hour to a 40-hour schedule isn't a windfall for the employee." Instead he said, it is "more work (and) additional responsibility with less practical opportunity to work additional hours" of overtime. "Only someone who aspires to organizational improvement and a higher degree of involvement and personal fulfillment will even apply," he said.

Most of the district's 40-hour-a-week employees work Monday through Thursday; the district offices are closed on Fridays. Those who work 56-hour weeks work two 24-hour days on, followed by four days off.

Board president Peter Carpenter said the district needs ways to motivate employees to move from a firefighters' schedule to four 10-hour days a week. "It totally transforms their commute," he said. "It's two very different lifestyles."

Deputy Fire Chief Don Long said firefighters who move to 40-hour jobs, usually because of promotions, often lower their compensation because they lose opportunities to work as much overtime.

But Mr. Bernstein said that was one of his problems with the position. "I think we have a problem when overtime becomes an entitlement," he said.

District officials say the position has existed for the past year under a provision in the current union contract that allows limited "interim assignments.

The agreement says the training captain will be a non-exempt employee (eligible for overtime) who will "work a 40 hour per week schedule" but will "continue to be paid as a 56-hour employees (sic)."

The agreement will expire if not made part of a new union contract after the current agreement expires June 30, 2018.

Comments

69 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 11:03 am

Our taxes at work at 71% instead of 100%. The new math according to MPFPD.


12 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm

How dreadful that a person who works to save our lives and puts his life on the line, gets paid much, much less than techies who contribute violent games for our kids to play! If--when--your house goes up in flames, will you fiddle with games while your house burns? I expect that you will be hoping well trained firemen come to your rescue.


69 people like this
Posted by HR
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm

"...the position...includes writing lesson plans, developing tests, and giving training.."

Sounds pretty risky to me! And for that, he gets 3x a teacher's salary.

"I expect that you will be hoping well trained firemen come to your rescue."

And, alas, they will only be men because, unlike almost every other city in the Bay Area, Menlo Park somehow doesn't find women to be qualified for the job. I understand there's a former Google employee who's looking for work just in case you need one of those four positions filled. He'd probably fit right in!


55 people like this
Posted by Pot meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 8, 2017 at 1:52 pm

This is a misleading headline. It seems to me like the Fire District just increased the salary for the position of "training captain" because it couldn't fill the position otherwise.

Fair enough. If this is what it costs to retain a "training captain" so be it. But if this is really just a sweetheart deal for Mr. Ellis, that is a problem.

My questions are as follows: how hard did the district look to find candidates at the previous salary rate? And why did the position have to be filled internally? And finally, is a full-time training captain position even necessary? Did the district consider contracting with another fire agency to receive training services?


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The District is establishing a training position for a 40 hour work week that requires a highly trained and skilled individual in order to train other individuals. This is not a job that can be filled by someone not skilled in the arts of this profession. This person will be paid for a 40 hour week.

It does not matter if that pay for that 40 hour week is the same as what an airline pilot might make in 15 hours or a lawyer might make in 4 hours - the person will be paid a market rate to work a 40 hour job.

Beware of any reporter who is writing a store to create a headline rather than to report the facts.

--

EDITOR'S NOTE:

Here is the text of the agreement: Web Link

Here is the headline from the agreement: "40-hour Staff Captain Assigned to Training"

Here is the text from the agreement: "During this assignment, the
Staff Captain will continue to be paid as a 56-hour employees (sic) ..."

"During this assignment, Annual Leave will continue to be accrued at the 56-hour rate however, using time off during this assignment will be subject to a formula to capture the 40-hour week schedule."

Read the agreement.








13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Yes, please DO read the agreement.

" paid as a 56-hour employees".

The person will not "be paid for working 56 hours" but will be paid at a higher rate for working 40 hours.

Why does the reporter have such a hard time with facts?

--

EDITOR'S NOTE:

Peter:

The facts: The agreement says: "During this assignment, the Staff Captain will continue to be paid as a 56-hour employees (sic) ..."

Where in the agreement does it say this: the person will not "be paid for working 56 hours." Where did you get that quote?

The story doesn't say he will paid for working 56 hours. The story says:

"District officials ... agreed to an unusual pay package: continue to pay the training captain at a 56-hour-a-week rate for working 40 hours a week."

Read the agreement and read the story. The story is factual. Your posts are not.

> Richard Hine



19 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Almanac headline states" but gets paid for 56"

Last week the reporter asked the District Counsel this question:

"My editor wants to know why it is legal to pay someone for working 56 hours a week when they are only working 40 hours? She says that it appears to be a gift of public funds to pay someone for time they are not working."

Clearly this was a headline in search for a story but the facts simply do not support this headline.

The Training Captain position is a different position than a Firefighter with different hours and different pay. The quest for sensationalism is disappointing.


--

EDITOR'S NOTE

Read the agreement and read the story. It's a fair and accurate account.



2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 8, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Richard - Just change the headline.


55 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2017 at 8:20 pm

To paraphrase Mr. Carpenter - Beware of any elected official who doesn't trust the press.

Peter, it's not fake news and this isn't Twitter.

And thank you Mr. Hine.


63 people like this
Posted by Just the facts
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 9, 2017 at 8:56 am

Just the facts is a registered user.

The real outrage here is that under this amended contract the training captain is virtually guaranteed to accrue overtime hours that in virtually any other position, in or out of government service, would only be compensated at regular pay. If the District can't get a captain to step forward to assume the training position then administratively assign someone. These people are public service employees, not free agents with a union to bend standards to maximize compensation. Also, do District policies regarding use of vehicles allow the training captain to use a district owned vehicle to commute to work? What possible justification could there be to allow this?
I greatly value the services these highly trained professionals provide. However, compensation should be in line with other like agencies not facebook wunderkinds.


6 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2017 at 3:09 pm

pearl is a registered user.

ATTENTION EDITOR - RICHARD HINE:

PLEASE DO NOT ATTACH YOUR COMMENTS TO THOSE ALREADY POSTED BY READERS; MAKE YOUR COMMENTS SEPARATELY. WHY? BECAUSE IF YOUR COMMENTS ARE ATTACHED TO THE READER'S COMMENT, WE CANNOT TELL IF "PEOPLE LIKED THIS" VOTES ARE FOR THE READER'S COMMENT OR YOURS WHICH IS ATTACHED TO THE READER'S. AND, IF WE AGREE WITH THE READER, BUT DISAGREE WITH YOU, OR AGREE WITH YOU BUT DISAGREE WITH THE READER, HOW ARE PEOPLE GOING TO TELL FOR WHOSE COMMENT WE "LIKED"?

THANK YOU,
PEARL




22 people like this
Posted by My two cents
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 10, 2017 at 7:28 am

What this shows me is that once you're on the "inside" of government, you wind up defending a lot of questionable things. Perhaps it's human nature. Peter has criticized Atherton having its own police department based on costs. I've agreed with him. The same fiscally conservative principles would also apply to this lavish pay package. By my way of thinking, if you've achieved status of a captain in the fire department, you're supposed to step up to do the jobs required, e.g., training, without special consideration like this. The same way a VP at a tech company would in the private sector.


10 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:06 pm

"Captain Ellis will receive $278,527"

Liz: "...gets paid much, much less than techies who contribute violent games for our kids to play"

You seem to be out of touch with reality, in the video game world at least. I have worked in that area several times with some top companies and the engineers, designers, testers, managers, etc. are not making anything close to that amount of money. Stock in Video game companies is volatile and not a huge perk in most places. And just the opposite of our Menlo Park Fire Department most people in video game jobs get paid 40 hours for working 60 or more a week, not the other way around.

Where can I get a job that pays me to work more hours than I do...


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Brian - Feel free to apply for a Firefighter position the next time that MPFPD has openings.

You will to have these qualifications to even be considered::

"▪ Possession of a valid class C or higher California
driver’s license; and a safe driving record
▪ Must have a valid EMT or Paramedics License
(National Registry or California)
▪ Must have a Firefighter 1 Certification;
completion from a college academy (or
proof of planned graduation date by
June 2017
▪ Possession of a valid CPAT certificate
(or proof of certificate by written exam date)

When you join Menlo Park Fire, you will be
joining a family of employees that work
together as a team and serve our community.
Our Mission is to protect and preserve life
and property from the impact of fire,
disaster, injury and illness."


18 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Peter treats the Almanac comments section like Trump treats twitter, with the same respect for honesty. Arguing with him is worthless because he will never admit anything even when everyone else can clearly see he is completely incorrect, as in this case and many others in the past.

Let's face it, the MPFPD is messed up beyond belief. Whenever you see them mentioned it is because of a very questionable decision or a major screw up, sometimes by the full board, sometimes by "The President of the Board" and some times by "A private citizen, who happens to be the President of the MPFPD and acting in the MPFPD's best interest on his own behalf". I am happy he is not running again, I hope the MPFPD can survive his tenure. To ensure that the other board members should do something.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District
1 - has had balanced budgets for every year in the last decade,

2 - responds within 7 minutes to incident 93% of the time

3 - and 98.5% of the District residents who were surveyed were satisfied with level of service provided by the Fire District.

Can any other local unit of government match those performance measures?


18 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Peter,

You have posted those statistics before and they have received a lot of comments that frankly were not favorable. I said it before and will say it again, it is easy to balance a budget when you are given way to much of people hard earned money to spend. It is time to reslice that particular pie. I have no idea what survey you are talking about, I am in the MPFPD and I did not get a survey. Are you talking about the one your personal "I am a private citizen" PAC created? How many people responded to that survey? What were the questions? Did you ask if people felt they were spending too much money on the MPFPD? Sorry but I personally do not trust any of your numbers without independent supporting documentation and by the look of recent comments I am far from alone in that regard.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Citizens' Fire Services Performance Review Committee (ID: 1396829) has recently completed a public survey. This survey was paid for by contributions by private citizens. The Committee has used no public funds.

This survey was conducted by Dr. Craig R. Everett of Zuma Bay Strategies.

Final survey results with graphics are published here:

Web Link

Text-based information from that report is provided below:

METHODOLOGY

Survey Dates: • 6/14/2017 – 6/24/2017
Sample Size: • 202 completed surveys
Sampling Error: • +/- 6.9% at the 95% confidence level
Unit of Analysis: • Adult Residents
Survey Medium: • Facebook
Population: • Residents within Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Screens • Age, Language (to minimize Latino oversampling)
Languages • English
Quotas • Location, Gender, Latino
Corrections • Weighting for Female Oversample (Actual pop is 50.5% female)
Principal Researcher • Craig R. Everett, PhD
All raw response percentages for the opinion questions have been corrected for female oversampling in the survey in order to reflect actual gender distributions within the MPFD per the 2010 US Census.

OPINION RESULTS

Question: Are you satisfied with level of service provided by our local fire department?

Yes 98.5%
No 1.5%

Question: On a scale of one (horrible) to five (superb) how do you rate the performance of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District?

1 (horrible) 1.0%
2 0.5%
3 7.5%
4 27.9%
5 (superb) 63.2%

Question: The Menlo Park Fire Protection District consists of 7 stations, 93 firefighters, serves 90 thousand residents and has a strong mutual aid agreement to obtain additional resources in times of urgency. A proposal to split off Atherton into its own district would result in two districts, one covering 7000 Atherton residents with 2 stations, 19 firefighters and no mutual aid agreement and one covering the remaining 83,000 MPFPD residents with 5 stations and 72 firefighters that preserves the existing mutual aid agreement.
Do you support:

One unified fire department for Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto 69.1%

No opinion 21.4%

A separate department for Atherton residents with the remaining
83,000 residents being served by the existing fire protection district 9.5%

DEMOGRAPHICS

Geographic Distribution of Survey Respondents
Atherton 7%
East Palo Alto 45%
Menlo Park 48%

Gender of Survey Respondents
Female 66%
Male 33%
Other 1%


Ethnicity of Survey Respondents
Latino 40%
Caucasian 38%
African American 9%
Asian 5%
Pacific Islander 4%
Not Disclosed 3%
Multi-Racial 1%
Native American 0%



Age of Survey Respondents
18-34 32%
35-44 24%
45-54 21%
55-64 14%
65-74 5%
75+

Socio-Economic Status
Wealthy/Upper Middle-Class 13%
Middle-Class 48%
Lower Middle-Class 30%
Poor 7%
Not Disclosed 2%


Marital Status
Married 60%
Single 29%
Divorced 8%
Widowed 3%



20 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:26 pm

"This survey was paid for by contributions by private citizens." That would be Peter Carpenter President of the MPFPD and "Private Citizen" when it meets his needs to say that.

Wow you got 202 responses to a survey you set up on Facebook and you consider that persuasive. You failed to ask questions about the cost of the services, Pay and over time pay for fire personnel, or a myriad of other topics which are of concern to the residents in this district and the city councils that represent those residents. Excuse me for saying this but your survey is self serving and not worth the electronic bits it is printed on.


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

2015 Measure Y

Shall the appropriations limit applicable to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which is currently set at $40,000,000 and set to expire on June 30, 2016, be reauthorized for four years at a level of $50,000,000 beginning on July 1, 2016?

Vote Count %
YES 6,299 79.1%
NO 1,666 20.9%
******

That is an unprecedented level of voter approval for either a parcel tax or a Gann Limit increase.


10 people like this
Posted by Pot meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 14, 2017 at 2:12 pm

Wow. Thank you Peter Carpenter for bringing up Measure Y.

The entire purpose of the Gann limit is to ensure that if the any taxing entity collects more tax revenues than it actually needs, the excess should be returned to the taxpayers. So the fact that the Fire District even sought to increase its Gann limit when it enjoys a multi-million dollar operating surplus is the most egregious evidence of a money grab by a local government I can remember, maybe ever.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 14, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The facts speak for themselves:

1 - the Fire District has had balanced budgets for every year in the last decade,

2 - the Fire District responds within 7 minutes to incident 93% of the time

3 - 98.5% of the District residents who were surveyed were satisfied with level of service provided by the Fire District.

4 - 79.1% of the voters approved a $10 million increase in the Fire District's expenditure limit


8 people like this
Posted by Fraud
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 14, 2017 at 3:17 pm

That will make for an interesting time card submitted by the Captain, won't it? Ethical dilemma ... put in for 40 hours and let the district falsify the other 16 worked. Or, put in for 56 and make up the actual dates and times.

If you are non-exempt, you are paid by the hour. If you get paid for hours not worked, it is fraud.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Training Captain will ONLY be paid for actual hours worked.

The Training Captain position is a different position than a Firefighter with different hours and different pay per hour.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 25, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,378 views

Couples: Sex and Connection (Chicken or Egg?)
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,137 views

Mountain View's Hangen Szechuan to close after 25 years
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,128 views

Zucchini Takeover
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 926 views