Fire Academy Head Transferred in Wake of Cheating Scandal

… Officials investigating other alleged improprieties in the spring, chief says …

By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

7:35 PM EDT, July 26, 2011

The head of Baltimore’s fire academy has been reassigned, Fire Chief James S. Clack said Tuesday, a week after officials began an investigation into cheating at the academy.

Chief Lloyd Carter will now head the department’s recruiting efforts, Clack said. He denied that the transfer was related to the cheating investigation, which centers around allegations that an instructor handed students a scenario for a lifesaving practical exam.

“It’s unfortunate this is happening during the investigation, but it’s more about having someone interested who can lead recruiting,” said Clack. “This is more about shuffling my deputy chiefs around to get the work done, not anything else.”

But Clack said that the investigation into the cheating has revealed significant concerns about the academy. Investigators are looking into allegations that students were improperly retained after failing two exams and that classes were routinely dismissed hours early, he said.

“It’s becoming obvious that some of the folks that worked for [Carter] cut corners and did some things that they shouldn’t have been doing,” he said.

Paul Moore, an 18-year veteran of the academy and a state-certified instructor, will lead the academy on an interim basis, Clack said.

Carter has headed the academy since October, when his predecessor retired. He has been with the department 27 years, Clack said.

Fire academy classes have been suspended since last week, when Clack appointed Baltimore Fire Marshal Raymond C. O’Brocki to oversee the investigation.

An investigation by the state agency that supervises paramedics and emergency medical technicians found that an instructor had provided answers for a practical exam to a class of 20 students.

Almost all the emergency medical instructors have been placed on administrative leave, but a couple have been transferred to another training facility, where they are overseeing payroll and other administrative duties, Clack said.

After a union-mandated 10-day leave period, the instructors will be moved to fire companies or other duties, he said.

Clack said the academy was in a state of “suspended animation” until the investigation could be finished.

“Once the investigation is over … we can find out who was responsible for what was done wrong,” he said.

Clack said he did not know the name of the instructor who was alleged to have distributed the test scenario to students.

“I don’t know, frankly, who that instructor is or how anyone else would know, since the investigation is not complete,” he said.

Clack said that investigators were also looking into allegations that two students had been moved to another academy class last spring after failing two exams. Under state law, the fire recruits are to be let go after failing two exams.

According to Clack, instructors said at the time that the students had not been properly prepared for the second test.

“What I was told back then by the instructors was that [the students] weren’t given enough time and tutoring between the two tests. We gave them another chance by putting them through the next EMT test because we had made a mistake,” he said. “Part of this investigation is looking at this issue to see if that was correct.”

Investigators are also looking into reports that some instructors routinely dismissed classes as much as two hours early, Clack said.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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