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DA TO CONFER ON LACKAWANNA FIRE PROBE

Investigators from the district attorney's office will confer with representatives from the state pension system as the next step in an investigation involving the Lackawanna Fire Department, District Attorney Kevin M. Dillon said Wednesday.

So far, no determination has been made if any crimes were committed, Dillon said.

His office is investigating possible pension system abuses from the long-standing, but now discontinued, practice of firefighters paying other firefighters to work for them. At issue is the possibility of firefighters receiving pension credit they were not entitled to.

"The case is somewhat unique because no one disputes the facts of it," Dillon said. "But we're still looking at some legal questions."

The fact is there was a long-standing practice in the department for firefighters to pay other firefighters to work for them, Dillon said. The practice was halted in August 1988 when city officials said they became aware of it. "There are no allegations that it continued," Dillon said.

There was no financial loss to the city since stations continued to be manned by qualified personnel when one firefighter worked for another, departmental records show, and there is no indication that city records were falsified, he said.

The remaining question is over pension credit and "that's what we want to talk to the state pension people about," Dillon said.

Swapping of shifts, with no exchange of money, is an acceptable practice and is specifically allowed by the firefighters' contract, he said.

The case was turned over to Dillon's office in October by the state Commission of Investigation after it spent more than 18 months on it. The commission made no recommendation.

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