City worker lives in San Diego, gets paid by taxpayers 2500 miles away

Cleveland man says he isn't doing anything wrong

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 found a Cleveland city firefighter on disability living here -- 2,500 miles away.

Joe Coneglio lives in a quaint home, just outside of downtown San Diego.

"I'm allowed to live wherever I want," said Coneglio.

An 2011 audit of the Cleveland Fire Department, obtained by 10News' Scripps sister station in Cleveland, WEWS, found payroll abuse, firefighters living in states other than Ohio and shift swapping.

The audit showed Coneglio did not work from January to April 2011. He listed San Diego as his home address.

City officials told WEWS Coneglio then crammed in extra shifts when he was in Cleveland.

Two years later, Team 10 found Coneglio was still living in San Diego and still employed by the city of Cleveland.

"My contract allows it," said Coneglio.

Asked if Coneglio thought it was the right thing to do, he replied, "I do think it's right. I think it's the best thing for my family," said Coneglio.

The controversy surrounding Coneglio living in San Diego but getting paid by Cleveland taxpayers led Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell to pass an ordinance requiring new firefighters to live in Cleveland.

"He's thumbing his nose at the system," Conwell said. "I should have named the radius law after him. I'm hot about it. We're not happy about it at all."

Cleveland Fire Department Spokesman Larry Gray said Coneglio isn't doing anything wrong.

"When you are on an injury, you can reside anywhere, as long as you follow the guidelines," Gray said.

Team 10 found Congelio has consistently been on and off hazardous duty injury status since July 2011. He has been getting paid, although he has not been working.

Gray said he was injured in July 2011, went on hazardous duty injury status until January 2012, returned to work in January 2012 on restricted duty, returned to full duty in September 2012 and then returned to Hazardous Duty Injury in October of 2012.

Gray said under city contract guidelines, if he sees his doctor and a city doctor once a month and they both say he can't work, he can can live where ever he wants.

"He's been in compliance with that. He comes once a month, he sees the city doctor," said Gray.

Gray said under the contract, he can continue this for up to two years from October 21, 2012 -- when he returned to Hazardous Duty Injury status.

Gray said there are no other firefighters on injury living 2500 miles away who fly 2500 miles to see a doctor once a month.

"Certainly that's not the norm. It's something that is frowned upon by the administration but that's his choice," said Gray.

"If they are receiving taxpayer dollars from our region then they need to be in the city radius," Conwell said.

Coneglio said what he's doing is no different from someone working in San Diego and living in El Cajon.

Thirteen firefighters were recently indicted for shift swapping, but not Congelio.

To read more about why this scandal was so hot in Cleveland when it first broke, click here. (mobile users: http://tinyurl.com/lutvjdy)

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