City paid a high price -- $147,000 -- for flawed firefighter study.
Updated: August 5, 2012 - 7:21 PM
Yes, we all make mistakes. But the whopper of an error made in a $147,000 study on the Minneapolis Fire Department could have easily been avoided.
Minneapolis officials hired Emergency Services Consulting International to evaluate the Fire Department. The three-part, 200-plus page study included a numerical mistake that hugely overstated firefighter sick time.
The report, made public on July 3, said that department averaged 292 hours of sick time per year for all personnel and 261 for firefighters - but in reality that number was the total for three years. The actual number for firefighters was an annual average of 87 hours. Because most work 24-hour shifts, firefighters averaged a much more reasonable 3.6 sick days annually.
At several points this mistake could have been corrected. The report authors should have questioned the data when they saw such a dramatic difference between overtime hours in similar cities. For $147,000, you would expect some basic fact-checking.
After reading the report and before making it public, Fire Department and city officials should have sent it back to the authors with a "that can't be right'' red flag. Firefighter union officials were rightfully outraged and denounced the report as a "slur on our membership.''
The huge error does cast doubt on the study's other findings. To get the taxpayer's money's worth, city officials should make sure the consultant double-checks everything in the report -- for free.
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