The Pendleton County Ambulance District struggle has been ongoing for better part of two years and it seemed to come to a resolved ending with the naming of a new director. But there was one more issue and Keith Smith reported on it and KPA named the article 1st place in Best General News Story.
The judge said, "A clear concise explanation of a controversial council decision. Just plain, straightforward solid reporting."
The story is below.
Ambulance director position on holdas board mishandles decision
The Pendleton County Ambulance Board moved to name Greg Pollard as Director and Jody Dunhoff as assistant director at their 10/22 special called meeting.
That decision was announced in an email to Falmouth Outlook, but the board improperly voted on the selections, putting the selections in legal limbo.
A concerned citizen had informed the staff of Falmouth Outlook of the impropriety. It was later separately confirmed that the vote had not occurred in the open portion of the special meeting.
Allegedly, the board voted for the two positions in executive session which apparently is a violation of state guidelines.
The board can and should have discussions on candidates in a closed forum to encourage open discourse that leads to the best decision. That right is protected, according to an opinion from the Kentucky Attorney General’s office.
After returning from executive session, the actual motion to offer a position to a candidate and voting should be held in public forum.
It was not.
Board Attorney Bob Bathalter was out of town and did not attend the meeting. His office indicated he will he researching the legality of a decision made by the board in an improper manner.
The board will hold a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 29 to vote on new hires and “correct the appointment/hiring procedure.”
Board Chairperson Dale Beighle indicated uncertainty when he was contacted on the matter, and Judge Executive David Fields said “not at this time” when given the opportunity to comment on it. He said that he had talked with the board and will be meeting with them this week.
It is not the first time that the board has acted in an improper fashion.
In June, Falmouth Outlook was contacted by several members of the ambulance staff over concerns that the board was having discussions on the future of the district in executive session, a topic that is not covered by the exceptions to the Open Meetings Act in KRS 61.810(1) and provided through the Kentucky Attorney General’s office.
At a June special meeting, they moved into executive session without giving a reason, and they did not state the KRS as required by state law. This reporter read the Kentucky Attorney General’s opinion on what topics they could discuss in executive sessions and how those sessions should be handled.
Board member Gina Adams remarked that they had copies of the attorney general opinion, and they knew what they were doing.
In August, they held a special meeting on Friday, August 16, and improperly elected officers as well as had discussions in executive session on topics that are not allowed per KRS statute.
KRS indicates that councils who hold special- called meetings must notify the local media on issues with an agenda 24 hours before the meeting; also, the agenda cannot be changed to add topics.
It did not have election of officers as an item to be discussed, but after returning from executive session, the board moved right into election of officers with no discussion.
Despite being informed of the impropriety of that election, they have yet to take actions to rectify it.
Also, during discussion in executive session, it was easily heard in the adjoining foyer their discussion on matters not covered by the Attorney General as proper executive session topics--one of which was discussion of this reporter and their opinion of “him not being fair.” They also discussed what paperwork they were going to include with the minutes of the meeting. They were unwilling to share this paperwork with me.
In September, they attempted to have a special meeting to interview candidates that was different than the manner approved at the last meeting. Falmouth Outlook challenged the setup of the meeting, and the agenda was changed from interviewing candidates to discussion of hiring process.
As reported by former Outlook reporter Jessica Turner-Rapier in the Tuesday, October 15 edition, the board indicated they would have a meeting on Tuesday, October 8, to discuss benefit and salary options as well as interviews. Neither a notice of that meeting nor the agenda was sent to Falmouth Outlook.
All of these concerns have been shared with the ambulance board chair, the judge exec, and the magistrates.