Cleburne EMS director placed on leave
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Feb 14, 2013 | 11316 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleburne County Emergency Medical Service director Keith Roberts is on paid administrative leave while the board which oversees the EMS conducts an investigation into alleged policy violations.

Cleburne County Hospital Board member Tracy Lambert placed Roberts on leave Wednesday afternoon, he said. The board is the governing body over and establishes policy for the EMS.

Lambert said the main reason he placed Roberts on administrative leave was for insubordination. But the leave period also allows Lambert time to gather information for an investigation into possible policy violations, he said.

“We’ve been making some changes,” Lambert said. “During those changes, more issues came up.”

Lambert said he doesn’t believe any laws were violated. He declined to comment further about the investigation.

Speaking by phone Thursday evening, Roberts declined to elaborate on the matter, saying only that the action placing him on paid leave had been “swift.”

Roberts said he would make his statement at the board’s meeting on Thursday.

One of the founding members of EMS in 1989, Roberts has worked as a paid employee, as a volunteer and served as a board member over the last 24 years, he said. Roberts has served as executive director for three years.

The board has been trying to bring down costs at EMS, said board member Gayle Anderson.

According to Anderson, the board receives a 4-mill property tax to operate the Cleburne County Nursing Home and EMS. The nursing home is self-sufficient, but EMS is not. The board knows it will have to continue to supplement the service, but the cost was getting very close to eating up all of the money the board receives, she said.

“It was right at the line,” Anderson said. “With costs going up and property values going down, it was precarious.”

In the two years she has been on the board, members have requested changes to help bring the cost of operating the ambulance service down, including changes to the vacation policy and overtime scheduling. Those changes have not been implemented, Anderson said.

The board decided to be proactive and hired a consultant to advise them. Ralph Mitchell, the consultant, had recommended a public-private partnership at the board’s January meeting. But the idea was discarded after Lambert proposed overseeing EMS himself. The board voted to allow Lambert six months to turn EMS around.

Board Chairman Bill Cleino said the members gave Lambert a lot of leeway to handle things at EMS.

“He can’t hire and fire,” Cleino said. “(The employees) work directly for the board.”

The board will decide if it wants to take further action against Roberts at its meeting on Thursday.

Board member Pam Richardson said the board has supported Lambert in the decision and is receiving updates from him.

For now, the three shift supervisors, Faith M. Price, Lee Bullock and Mitch Upchurch, are handling the day-to-day operations with his oversight, Lambert said.

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