County relying on temporary, makeshift EMS service after controv - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

County relying on temporary, makeshift EMS service after controversial vote

SWITZERLAND CO., IN (FOX19) -

At midnight Dec. 31, an ambulance from King’s Daughter’s Health rolled into Vevay and parked near the county sheriff’s office, ending a decades-long relationship between Switzerland County EMS, Inc. and Switzerland County government. 

SCEMS, Inc. is a private EMS company based in Vevay and was funded with nearly a half-million in tax dollars annually.

The 10,000 people who call Switzerland County home will have to rely on a borrowed, temporary EMS service when they call 911 for help. The county’s board of commissioners voted Monday night to fire its permanent EMS provider after developing a “lack of confidence” in Switzerland County EMS, Inc.

WHAT TAXPAYERS CAN EXPECT NOW

King’s Daughter’s Health has worked out an agreement with Switzerland County’s Board of Commissioners to provide one ambulance and an EMS crew to perform 911 runs until the county and find a permanent replacement for SCEMS, Inc. That ambulance will be based at the sheriff’s office and will answer calls from across the 224 square miles that make up Switzerland County.

Switzerland County unit will only have backup if the single ambulance is making a run “outside of the county,” KDH spokeswoman Nadja Boone told FOX19.

"We plan on actually staging an ambulance, locating it out of the sheriff's office in Vevay, which is sort of in the middle of that county. It is a rural county, but the nucleus of the population is located near or around the Vevay area,” Boone said in a Dec. 30 phone interview.

Boone contends there will be no change in wait times under the temporary agreement when compared to what taxpayers saw when SCEMS held the contract.

Only under a “large emergency,” would mutual aid agreements with Ohio and Ripley Counties kick in, Boone added.

A timeline for how long this set up may last “has not been worked out yet,” Boone said.

None of the three county commissioners would agree to interviews with FOX19 to explain their decision to end the EMS contract.

Attempts to reach SCEMS Director Randy See were unsuccessful. FOX19 made two calls to the SCEMS office and were hung up on both times after identifying ourselves. Randy See placed the station on trespass notice in July after attempts to interview him before our initial investigations aired.

WHERE THE RELATIONSHIP WENT WRONG

During a Dec. 28 county commissioners meeting, the three-member board voted to not renew its $442,500 a year contract with SCEMS. Commissioners Josh South and Mark Lohide voted to end the relationship and Commissioner Steve Lyons “just didn’t say anything,” Commissioner’s Assistant Bruce Williams told FOX19.

Minutes from that meeting were not made public or posted on the county’s Web site as of this report.

The county wanted more oversight in how the private EMS service spent tax dollars and how the company provided EMS coverage for the county. The reason: the commissioners said they’d lost confidence in SCEMS, Inc. after allegations of misconduct and an investigation by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

IDHS hit SCEMS with multiple violations of Indiana’s EMS regulations in November, placing the private ambulance service on probation through 2017. SCEMS was also the subject of a FOX19 investigation in July after allegations surfaced that SCEMS Director Randy See certified a doctored medical training record.

The allegations we investigated also included claims that the county’s former Emergency Management Director, Chris See, faked CPR and fire training records; allegations Chris See denied. 

Chris See is also the chief of the Jeff Craig Volunteer Fire Department, the largest fire department in Switzerland County. Chris See is also Randy See’s son.

The day after our investigation aired, an IDHS investigator made calls to people we interviewed in our investigation into the allegations against SCEMS and Chris See.

In November, Indiana Department of Homeland Security investigators wrapped up a part of their investigation into the JCVFD and SCEMS.

IDHS told FOX19, the investigation into SCEMS is finished, but the investigation into the fire allegations involving JCVFD and Chris See, is still open and active inside the State Fire Marshal’s Office in Indianapolis.

The investigations started after IDHS said it received multiple complaints of misconduct in both agencies back in 2014.

County commission meeting minutes show contract negotiations with SCEMS dating back to the Oct. 19 meeting. By the Nov. 16 meeting, the commissioners indicated finalizing a contract offer with SCEMS. The county sent that copy to SCEMS Director Randy See.

The Nov. 24 commission meeting minutes show SCEMS would not agree to allow a county commissioner and a county council member a voting position on the SCEMS board. This voting right component was one of the major provisions of the 2016 SCEMS contract, a provision SCEMS would not agree to approve.

SCEMS attorney Lisa Rosenberger told the commission, it would be a “conflict of interest” for a commissioner or county council member to hold voting authority over SCEMS.

The Nov. 24 meeting minutes stated the county demanded a vote on the SCEMS board because of a “lack of confidence in the organization.” Commissioner Josh South said during the meeting, he “did not find out any of the information about the investigation/complaints until it was breaking over the news,” the minutes show.

Our investigation into the allegations broke July 2.

That’s contrary to what South said during a July 6 commissioner’s meeting when he and Commissioner Steve Lyons admitted they knew of the allegations against SCEMS and Chris See in 2014.

When FOX19 questioned South during public comment time at the July 6 meeting about why the county did not act to address the allegations in 2014, South answered, “Because at that time, there was an investigation currently going on by the Department of Homeland Security.”

The county’s agreement with SCEMS expired at midnight Dec. 31.

WHAT IDHS INVESTIGTATORS FOUND:

In June 2014, IDHS received the first of several complaints, alleging SCEMS officials were not following the law in how it maintained records and the operation of the county’s lone EMS agency. The IDHS report shows the most detailed complaint went to Indianapolis in July 2014.

The July 2014 complaint was filed by Rob Stockmeier, a man fired by SCEMS Director Randy See on June 14, 2014. Email records filed with IDHS shows See fired Stockmeier the same day Stockmeier emailed See, requesting a meeting with the SCEMS board over Stockmeier’s belief the department had violated its own policies and Indiana law.

Stockmeier was working for See as the SCEMS paramedic at the time. Stockmeier is currently working at the Harrison, Ohio Fire and EMS department.

See fired Stockmeier over email writing, “Your employment with Switzerland County EMS is terminated as of 6-14-14.” The email is signed, “Randy See, Director Switzerland County EMS.

Days later, Stockmeier filed a formal complaint with IDHS but the investigator’s records show Stockmeier would not provide further documentation and information to IDHS so investigators could finish their investigation into SCEMS and Stockmeier’s complaints.

In August 2014, IDHS records show three inspectors went to SCEMS to conduct audits related to Stockmeier’s allegations. That audit resulted in multiple violations for the SCEMS.

In August 2015, IDHS inspectors went back to SCEMS to conduct a follow up inspection and the investigator found three more violations. In total, inspectors detailed 13 separate violations of the state’s EMS regulations.

Those violations included violations of failing to maintain proper documentation of training, evaluations, sanitation procedures, daily checklists and failing to have the SCEMS medical director on hand for the 2014 and 2015 audits.

None of the violations appear to involve allegations that SCEMS fabricated training records. Investigators did question SCEMS officials regarding those allegations, but the report states, Randy See told investigators the complainant “was indeed lying.”

In an order handed down by IDHS on Nov. 6, the state placed SCEMS on probation for two years after the agency formally charged SCEMS with violating six separate regulations between 2014 and 2015. IDHS wrote in its order, SCEMS “failed to comply with and maintain compliance with rules adopted under Indiana Code.”

The order also provides options for IDHS to revoke SCEMS’ license to perform EMS services in the state for “failure to comply with a condition” of the IDHS order through 2017.

IDHS also told SCEMS in the order that it could seek “any other remedies or sanctions available” to the agency under Indiana law if SCEMS committed any further violations.

IDHS INVESTIGATORS NOT FINISHED WITH SWITZERLAND COUNTY

July, IDHS opened an investigation into the Jeff Craig Volunteer Fire Department after allegations were reported to the state of misconduct related to fire training there.

Those allegations include multiple claims that JCVFD Chief Chris See fabricated and “pencil whipped” training records for firefighters. The complaints to IDHS investigators also included statements that Chris See faked dozens of CPR certifications for several people in and out of the JCVFD.

IDHS’s report shows investigators interviewed Chris See during the 2015 investigation. Investigators questioned Chris See about the CPR cards. See, the report shows, admitted to investigators that he did print the CPR cards. Those cards went to multiple people inside and outside of the county’s EMS and fire services.

Multiple people told FOX19 they’d never signed up for the course, but whose names were printed on a CPR and AED cards.

See, the report shows, explained to the investigator that he “was going to try and get everyone on the same date so he printed all the cards for the entire department and set the class up.” See said the class was canceled twice.

The CPR cards See printed still contained the dates of the original class.

“He said the cards were in his office and that he did give out a few of the cards to people that took a CPR class,” the investigator wrote in his report. “The other cards remained in his office until someone took them,” See is reported as having told the investigator.

See resigned his Switzerland County Emergency Management Director position in August. County commissioner Josh South would not provide specifics as to why See resigned, citing “personal reasons” as the reason for the resignation.

Chris See remains the chief of the JCVFD.

We did not reach Chris See as part of this update because in our last attempt, See responded through email, “Please stop contacting me via email and cell phone.” We were not able to find him after a search for him in Vevay.

We reached out to SCEMS Director Randy See, asking for an interview concerning the IDHS report. We asked See for an interview as he walked through the SCEMS parking lot in November. See did not respond when asked for an interview and got into his SUV and drove away.

As of this report, Randy See has not responded.

IDHS confirmed for FOX19, there is still an open investigation into the allegations that fire training records were fabricated at the JCVFD. IDHS did not provide a timeline on when that investigation could finish.

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