HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - In the 2016 fiscal budget, the Hattiesburg Fire Department spent over a million dollars of taxpayers' money on overtime, while operating with minimal staffing.
Since Thursday, Oct. 27, when WDAM 7 News broke the story, top ranking officials inside the Hattiesburg Fire Department have been working to solve the issue.
"What we have done is acknowledge that there was overtime that we probably needed to account, do a better accounting for," Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said.
On Friday, Oct. 28, a list of 18 men made its way through the department, and it read, "for the time being please do not hire these individuals for overtime."
"Those guys that were on the list are guys that normally take the overtime, and it's easier for the shift commander to hire those guys," Hattiesburg Fire Chief Paul Presley said.
Presley said that he worded the letter wrong.
"They still can have overtime, we are trying to get the lowest ranking guys first," Presley said.
The names on the list include:
Presley said the list was made up of the group of men that had complied the most overtime, but that often times others in the department cannot work extra shifts.
"Now a lot of times that's not the case, guys have second jobs stuff like that, so they can't…or something, they got to be at home with their families," Presley said.
Mayor DuPree said the chief is going to have more oversight in handling the overtime spending.
"The chief is personally going to sign off on all overtime from here on out to make sure that those who are working overtime are not the highest paid, that's some of what we've had, the highest paid have been working overtime, so we're going to make sure those on the lower scale will work some of those," DuPree said. "The bottom line is we are serving Hattiesburg and the residents the best we can, with the number of people that we need to respond to, but we going to continue to do the best job that we can, but these guys do an awesome job at what they do."
Presley said they are currently working toward an upcoming academy.
However, despite the academy being fully-funded and with recruits signed up, no date has been set at this time.