SCRANTON — Scranton firefighters risk injury every time they get a call.
From inhaling smoke, to potentially slipping on ice while fighting a fire in cold weather, injuries often come with the job.
City records show Scranton Firefighter David Dolphin has been off the job, but collecting full pay through worker’s compensation for the past four months.
On Tuesday, we found Dolphin healthy enough to mow the grounds of Abington Highlands apartments near Clarks Summit.
Dolphin would not comment on why he’s able to work, but not able to fight fires.
Scranton city solicitor Paul Kelly would.
“I thought he was working beyond the restrictions, of his work restrictions, based on his worker`s compensation claim,” said Kelly who adds that Dolphin has worked as a firefighter for 23 years.
Kelly said during that time Dolphin has been off the job on worker’s comp several times, and when added up, it accumulates to more than three years off.
After an anonymous tip this summer, Kelly said the city hired a private detective to trail Dolphin.
On July 22 the detective’s video caught Dolphin mowing the grounds of Abington Highlands on a day when temperatures reached the mid 80s.
That same day, several of Dolphin`s colleagues at the Scranton Fire Department spent hours helping to put out the fire that destroyed the old Dunmore High School.
“If he`s out, someone has to fill in for him,” said Kelly.
The head of Scranton’s Firefighter’s Union sees it differently.
“You`re either off, or you`re working, there`s no in between,” said John Judge, who said there is no light duty for injured firefighters in Scranton.
He said his co-workers often have injuries that are too severe to keep them from fighting fires, but not severe enough to keep them from work such as mowing lawns.
“It`s not like some jobs, where you are limited to picking up 20 pounds that day,” said Judge.
Dolphin would not talk about his landscaping work.
After we tried a second time to get his side of the story, he drove off from Abington Highlands leaving his mowing tractor behind.
Solicitor Paul Kelly says the city is just beginning its investigation.
“We are going to take whatever legal steps we can take for termination of benefits,” said Kelly.
After we went to David Dolphin for answers, city officials received a fax from Dolphin’s doctor claiming his injury should not prevent him from landscaping.
Solicitor Kelly said when Dolphin went out on workers comp this spring, a doctor’s note said he was not to do any work at all, and Kelly said Dolphin was legally obligated to tell the city if he was doing another job so insurers and the city could evaluate if it is too stressful.
Kelly added his department and the city’s worker’s comp insurer are considering asking for a hearing to terminate Dolphin’s workers comp benefits.