Houston fire department workers leave and cash in
Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston city payroll records show almost 200 fire department employees over the past six years have collected checks of more than $100,000 when they retired or quit.

The financial windfall known as termination pay includes payment for leave time not taken over the years.

It's not illegal but the disclosure Sunday from the Houston Chronicle comes as Houston is suing the firefighter's pension fund to try to get negotiating power over future contributions. City officials also want to address a projected $8.5 million in unexpected fire department overtime.

Firefighter union officials say the practice has saved the city overtime costs of replacing sick or absent firefighters. But critics say the policy could lead to a financial crisis if retirement-eligible employees do so and collect big checks for unused leave.

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