The below was posted by myself in the deep, deep South, where there are a greater percentage of really good people.
-September 19, 2005 at 7:20 PM Central Time“Every time some tells me to trust them because they are a good ole boy, I reach to my back pocket to make sure that my billfold is still there.”
The below is cut and pasted from one of Mark Gaines' Websites. Will Connecticut censor him as they have so many in Korruptikut.
SUFFIELD AMBULANCE MEMBERS FORUM
SUFFIELD, Connecticut USA
The Free Voice of the Members
Updated 19 September 2005 Moderated by Brian MacDonald, Cheshire, England“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God”Thomas Jefferson
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Former U. S. President and King of The Texas Good Ole Boys
The purpose of this Web Site is to provide for an open exchange of ideas at the grassroots level by ordinary SVAA members who are not officers or members of The SVAA Board of Directors. It is intended to summarize the different opinions and concerns being voiced outside the official meetings. This forum is intended to supplement the SVAA EPager authored by Don Minor and provide a reliable alternative to the rumor mill. There are several members banded together that made this site happen.
This forum doesn’t reflect the views of the SVAA Board of Directors, Board of Trustees or it’s appointed officers. It is published as an expression of free speech by a small group of Suffield EMTs trying to bring about political change. This site is protected by the first amendment of The United States Constitution and is not an official statement by The Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Association. It is the legal right of any member to engage in responsible free speech without reprisal or interference by any SVAA official. This is a private forum not associated with The Town of Suffield or The Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Association. The officers and Board of Directors are not in charge here. They never will be.
Send me your views at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
. Responsible views based on factual, objective and honest expression are welcomed. Don’t be afraid of the “kingmaker” and the close supporters. You volunteer at SVAA and this is your association as a member of the Suffield community. .
FEEDBACK TO THIS SITE
I have heard both pro and con in response to this site. In all fairness, the opponents get the first say.
The critics consider that this site is dragging the name of the organization and it’s volunteers “through the mud,” in an effort to “destroy” the organization. They rely on arguments that center on personal loyalty and the “extended family” concepts. I have yet to receive one objective comment on the facts such as the violations of members rights, ethical concepts of conflict of interest, or the violations of federal OSHA standards. In fact the whole thrust of these negative comments seems centered on intense personal dislike of those of us who have spoken up. There seems to be a strong sense of clannishness and groupthink. One has even promised to do everything in their power to “run out” all of us who have spoken up on the issues of concern. The response has been emotional and not factual. In fact the people sending in the “hate email” are the very ones that sit with the leaders at functions. What I am hearing is that sticking with the leaders is more important than right principles. One even gave me credit for signing what I write, unlike someone else last year. Why would I not sign something I wrote?
It was very interesting they quoted market rates from 1989 to justify the current billing arrangement. It might have indeed been 15% commission back then, but The Certified Ambulance Group in Wethersfield currently charges 3% if collected within 15 days, or 6% if the bill goes over 15 days. SVAA currently pays 10% flat rate. At the very least someone should lower their rates. They never mentioned why there has been no bid since 1989. Can anyone answer that question please? This is an interesting use of statistics that reminds me of a quote by Samuel Clemmons, also known as Mark Twain. He said, “there are lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Personal attacks on me have exponentially increased. Recently I was delivering a patient to Saint Francis Hospital ER while on duty for another volunteer EMS agency. Two members of SVAA pass by the triage desk, and I said “Good evening.” Two replied back in a civil fashion, but the paramedic, a career firefighter, ignored me while making a snide remark to my partner, “Oh aren’t you so lucky!” The remark had an opposite effect and left a bad impression of SVAA with another town volunteer service. It appears even basic civility is breaking down at SVAA as a result of the influence of the “Kingmaker.” This is so sad. This incident was witnessed by Saint Francis management and staff who commented on it. One made a joke about how easy it is to have a political falling out with SVAA. SVAA came out with egg on their face as a result.
The supporters have been growing in numbers. It is surprising to hear from some people I never expected to get involved. This site is getting an increasing number of hits in recent days. The support given is greatly appreciated! Thanks.
WE HAVE A WEIRDO LOOSE IN ALL OF THIS
I just received another strange phone call from someone no longer associated with SVAA. Since this is the second such strange call in two days, my mind made the connection to the fact that another person, a third party, has a copy of our telephone numbers. It is most likely an old list. Various telephone calls are being made which, appear to be an attempt to throw gasoline on the fire in this dispute. Recently I received another threatening call. This is a friendly heads up so you will be aware this is the handiwork of some crank. Thanks for your understanding while the leads are being investigated. It is no credit to an organization when a political disagreement escalates to what has happened here. Threats over the phone are a criminal matter, and certainly volunteer EMS folks should be above this. Certainly the leadership should not allow this to happen, and should not have fanned the flames against me as some nuts get out of control. Shame on the “kingmaker.” This is more evidence of the bad leadership the SVAA has to offer.
NEW YAHOO GROUP FOR SVAA MEMBERS
I have set up a private email system on a Yahoo Group. This is a closed, private system for eligible SVAA members only. You can join today by going to:http://groups.yahoo.com/SuffieldEMS
This site is designed to bring things out into the open and promote the safe exchange of ideas, and hopefully eliminate some of the gossip and clandestine culture that is damaging SVAA. I have decided to bring my concerns onto the open Internet because SVAA officials have attempted to impede my right to free speech and tried to tell me that I am not allowed to do these things. Thomas Jefferson had a better idea when he wrote the Bill of Rights.
BACK UP WEB SITE SET UP IN GREAT BRITAIN
With the help of my friends at la Universitè de Montrèal, Quèbec, we arranged to set up a back up site outside U. S. authority as free speech has been put on the Endangered Species List by “The Kingmaker.” Thanks to Brian MacDonald for stepping up to the plate as the new editor.
You can now get this site at two places:http://www.gainesnet.com/svaamembers.htmhttp://members.lycos.co.uk/dansegypsy/svaamembers.htm
This site is now on a web circle supported by the European Union where free speech is much more of a reality. We are working on another back up site in Hilversum, Holland.
Other outside groups are joining this fight and lending me help. The site is getting at least twenty new hits a day thanks to some EMS internet contacts. The hits are coming from as far away as Ontario, California and the northeast region. Thanks for the support.
RETALIATION AGAINST FORUM MODERATOR FOR FREE SPEECH
As of 31 August 2005 at 1730 hours my access to Rescue Booker was no longer functional. When I asked the chief about the matter, he denied any knowledge. When questioned about anything else he “should be telling me,” he admitted that “there is something in the works.” He indicated to me he was not able to discuss just what it is. He directed me to call another person who handles the Rescue Booker. That person told me to “call the chief.” No one will tell me what is going on. I am being denied my rights as a member to due process. They did not even follow the SVAA By-Laws by having The Board of Directors meet, or telling me up front anything.
This is not unexpected with one “Opinion maker” in charge. When I can tell you more, it will be posted. I expect they will do me like they did another innocent member over two years ago. When there was no evidence another member was suspended and forced to resign. I expect they are trying to do this to me as they have placed me on “Administrative Leave” for the free speech exercised here on this web site. This begs the question, “What have they got to be afraid of?” Personnel matters are supposed to be private, but SVAA officials openly discussed my administrative leave at the annual meeting with outsiders present, including charges of: Defamation of the SVAA.” They even stated this administrative leave would continue until the investigation is over, and then it would be lifted.
Thanks for the numerous calls from members encouraging me and giving support! Their day will come soon! I hear this site is the number one hit at the SVAA computer in the annex. I will keep it updated as much as I can.
FEDERAL OSHA RAIDS SVAA ON FRIDAY
On Friday, 10 September 2005, The Federal Safety & Health Administration paid a visit to SVAA, to investigate serious violations of standards. The violations in question were repeatedly brought to the attention of the senior officers and Board of Directors, but were blown off. In part a certain member is on administrative leave in retaliation for speaking up about these violations. That retaliation is illegal under federal law and SVAA now faces legal action for this violation of the legal rights of an SVAA member. The lawsuit on this alone could bankrupt the SVAA. Right now the “Kingmaker” and puppets are being tight lipped by not telling the members just what is going on. This is not a routine OSHA audit folks, but an investigation. Why else would they suddenly have to announce training for Bloodbourne Pathogens, Hazardous Materials and HIPPA? How about the sudden surges for TB tests and other health requirements they refused to enforce when they were told many times?
SVAA officials were repeatedly warned about the real threat of a $40K fine (this happened in a nearby town for the same issues) from existing violations and failed to act. That is a lot of money that could buy a new ambulance, but certain people just had to hang on to power at all costs. They are going to spend a lot of town money on using the town attorney to defend them.
LEGAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST WITHIN THE SVAA BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS
This is painful for me to write, after having worked with some of the people involved for many years. In the best interests of the SVAA, I am taking the risk to write what I have heard, researched and how I feel. You will not likely be without strong feelings about what follows here.
My research indicates that we have one officer doing the billing for SVAA. The arrangement is not the usual in that SVAA bought the equipment used and pays for the phone line into a private residence used for billing purposes. The fact is the billing is done by this officer, as the owner of a private for profit business. This officer has even further conflict of interest as a sibling sits on The SVAA Board of Directors, a party to this arrangement. I did some research on The Connecticut Public Charities Law. The results are disturbing at best.
The owner of this private business is receiving 10% of the collected SVAA billing revenues. This individual has been handling the billing since 1992, having raised the rates from 8%. I checked with some other volunteer EMS organizations, finding the normal rate is about 6%. It would be one thing if an officer of the SVAA provided the service at a below market value such as 4% or for free. In fact that practice is more common than most people think. It is entirely another thing when this kind of conflict of interest exists by charging above market rates, as an insider. Furthermore, there is supposed to be a bidding process involved, which didn’t happen here at the SVAA. Why did this contract go directly to a privileged insider instead of being put out for bid? What is going on here? This is considered as an officer taking advantage of their position for their own private benefit. In general, public charities are trusts that must separate their interests from private business. Any such arrangements must be out in the open and within strict parameters.
This individual also does the billing for four other towns. We provided the “seed money” for this private business that is doing quite well by all accounts.
Windsor Ambulance uses a private company. CAG carries their own expenses including telephone, computer, collection and the like. CAG does it for 6%. If the bill is paid within 15 days, CAG gives an extra 3% discount back to Windsor Ambulance. Any well-run business bids out a major cost item on a yearly basis. Why is this not done at SVAA? The extra 4% would be more money for a new building or ambulance, instead of profit for an SVAA official operating in open conflict of interest. SVAA needs to do what is ethical instead of taking advantage of a loophole in CT Ethics Laws that allows private charities not to bid out contracts. That kind of practice is on the level with former Governor (now federal inmate) John Rowland and his friends. Hasn’t the state had enough of that already?
As a result SVAA may now be open to serious legal action and financial liability that could seriously impact our future. You need only look into the recent archives of the Waterbury paper and read the articles on The Seymour Ambulance Association Scandal. This is not a joke and every member ought to be very concerned about this issue. While some members of The SVAA Board of Directors have fought these abuses, most members have not, in violation of their duties to exercise considerable independent judgment and look out for the best interests of the organization. Just who is the SVAA Board of Directors really working for?
The problems don’t stop here as we have one Board of Directors member teaching CPR in our building, while collecting the fees as a private contractor. The SVAA building, funded by The Town of Suffield, with utilities paid for by a public charity; The SVAA. Again, a private business may not use the shell of a public charity for their own profit.
I believe this might have been the message someone tried to get out last year. That person lacked the proper education, experience and means to do it justice. Some people will hate me for this, but I care about the SVAA to look out for what I understand to be upright moral and legal principles. I care enough to put up with organized hate email and phone attacks that have been directed against me in the week of the recent annual meeting. Certain people have influenced their pinions to vent anger against me because of this web site. I understand they are this is the result of bad leadership and these normally generous and giving people have been misdirected as a part of an campaign by the “kingmaker” to stay in a position of power and privilege. Some members even came to the annual meeting with a carefully prepared script to read. Certain members did not miss that fact. It was obvious manipulation and they staged the annual meeting well.
Other members are selling goods and services to SVAA as well, on a much smaller scale. Some officers are also agents of a business that sell goods and services to SVAA.
We also have a legal issue as the SVAA Board of Directors meets in closed session for issues concerning purchasing contracts. I am informed by legal counsel this is not legal and would cause problems with The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, should someone bother to file a complaint. Was the Ambulance Billing Services contract awarded this way? Ask the Enfield area fire departments about the results of the illegal meetings they held. Fines were paid as a result.
We need to look at who is on the SVAA Board of Directors, and make the necessary changes.
If we don’t, outside government agencies just might do this. I am told there are disgruntled former and current members making inquiries at certain alphabet soup agencies. It is only a matter of time before the shoe drops. The members have been disenfranchised by a small clique of people acting against the best interests of the people of Suffield.
WHERE ARE THE PUBLIC OFFICIALS?
SVAA is a quasi-public agency that occupies a public building, and receives public funding for paid employees provided by the town. Several members have contacted the Board of Selectmen yet this obvious conflict of interest continues. Several members including a former official have contacted the CT Attorney General as well. The state level obviously requires some time being AG is a busy place. The first line of defense at the town level as obviously failed due to the inordinate influence certain individuals hold in town. These individuals are openly profiting from their official positions within SVAA, and no one has moved to do anything about it. We need the state and the federal agencies to come in and make things right.
It is high time The First Selectman and other Suffield Selectmen do their duty to safeguard the higher public interest. On 15 September 2005 a formal written complaint was filed with The Town of Suffield Ethics Commission and The First Selectman. Lets see if they do their job or blow this off like the SVAA Board of Directors has. Mr. Scott Lingenfelter, hello, are you really listening? Step in and do your duty by cleaning up this mess. Some SVAA officials need to go. Call them a taxi, Mr. First Selectman.
THE LEADERSHIP STYLE OF THE SVAA
My phone and EMAILS have been busy of late on the subject of leadership issues. In the past few weeks I have spent more time listening to members share their concerns with me on this subject. Let me summarize what I have heard.
There is significant concern during the interim period while we select a new chief. This is only natural. Concerns are being expressed over the perception that a very few individuals control and run the SVAA with an iron hand. The fact our former chief, Mr. William Dunne declined to return has only added more gossip.
Discussion has centered on the fact that the most members of The SVAA Board of Directors are very close friends with long standing ties to each other. The concern centers on one or two individuals who seem to direct every aspect of SVAA affairs with their opinions or direct authority, including selecting the new chief to suit their agenda. The fact has emerged that during the election in which the SVAA President was re-elected, this victory was by a single vote. Concerns exist over the fact that the SVAA President is a close relative of a senior appointed officer. There are concerns over the lack of direct input by members and that the Board of Directors is out of touch with the membership. In other organizations I have seen the important issues such as the budget, recall of officers and directors, changes in By-Laws and replacement of vacant Directors seats voted on directly by the electors (members), as it should be. That is not the case here at SVAA and this needs to change to give direct control back to the members of SVAA. Control of the SVAA has been stolen from the members.
One example I can provide is the attempt some time ago to impose a self Evaluation Tool on the members. The idea was each member was to fill out this job self evaluation and review it with their “mentor.” It was not accepted by the membership and in fact I don’t know of anyone that filled it out. It was quietly abandoned because the members did not accept it. Would it not have been better to ask the members first and save a lot of trouble, and paper?
Recently the SVAA President attempted to pass a change in the SVAA By-Laws that would proscribe an appointed officer from sitting on the SVAA Board of Directors. I am hearing that the members feel this would limit the choice of the members to select the candidate of their choice. Reports are further circulating that our President is resisting giving the vote on this issue to the members, as are certain senior appointed officers. My research indicates this might be a back door approach to remove one dissident member from the SVAA Board of Directors; a member who has spoken out against certain practices outlined in this article. Only the members at large have the right to change By-Laws. The Directors are supposed to work for the members.
I did research with an attorney specializing in business law and it was revealing. It is a principle in non-profit organizations that members elect directors, and directors appoint officers. Changes in the organizational by-laws are to be voted on by the general membership. Our SVAA By-Laws are in bad need of overhaul as the real power lies with the SVAA Board of Directors and not the membership! On top of that when a Director resigns between regular elections, the SVAA Board of Directors selects a new Director instead of the membership holding a special election. The SVAA Board of Directors holds closed meetings to decide contract and purchasing matters. These meetings are supposed to be open to the members. These are just some of the changes need to overhaul the SVAA By-Laws to restore a balance of power between the general membership and the Board of Directors. I hear too many comments about the culture of secrecy that the SVAA operates in.
I hear comments that anyone who speaks up against certain “kingmakers” and chief opinion makers is either ignored or faces retaliation. I was privately warned to be careful of this! There is a wonderful book on this subject that addresses this subject well. Crucial Conversations by Patterson et al, ISBN 0-07-140194-6, explores the need for safe and open communication by all parties at all levels in any situation to protect the safety and integrity of the organization. When you have one chief “opinion maker” such as a surgeon who will not allow free and open communication, you have a disaster waiting to happen. This is what happened at Duke University when a mismatched liver was transplanted into a Mexican girl in a rush to start the operation. The girl lost her life as a result of the surgeon failing to listen to the team, and check the safety data to insure a safe match. It happens in every organization at various times. When the opinion and authority of one person is more important than hearing what others have to say, you have a ticking time bomb. Given the explosive temper of the “Kingmaker,” there is a real problem here because someone’s temper tantrum caused this whole mess you are reading about. I would expect that from a two or three year old.
That is why it is important to rotate different people in positions on the Board of Directors and Officers positions. No one person should remain in a position too long, which is why term limits are a wise provision in any set of by-laws. Every one of us has both a duty and right to participate in the governance of the SVAA. For one person to gain too much influence and control is ultimately destructive to the organization in the long run. People who remain in a position too long too often tend to get a false sense of entitlement and ownership. The positions on the board and officers slots do not belong to anyone individual, but are positions of stewardship to serve others. One of our senior appointed officers has been heard out of town to refer to SVAA as “my ambulance service.” This attitude will drive out good members and keep our best talent from having a chance to contribute to the SVAA.
There is another book that explores what happens when there are serious leadership problems in an organization. Bad Leadership, by Barbara Kellerman, ISBN 1-59139-166-0, explores this issue in far more detail than any other book I have yet seen. It was recommended to me by my Medical Director at a Harvard University hospital, and is worth its weight in gold. It spends time on incompetent, rigid, intemperate, callous, corrupt, insular and evil leadership, as well as how these kinds of leaders will destroy an organization. Just an important is the emphasis on the responsibility of the close followers and ordinary membership to speak up to stop wrongful practices.
I learned a lot of this the hard way while working as a manager in Chicago, while attending Nursing College. All around me was the culture of corruption and Chicago style politics that descended from the era of the late Richard J. Daley, former Mayor of Chicago. If you want a primer on political corruption try to get your hands on an out of print book written by Mike Royko. Boss writes about the entire history of Chicago style politics in complete detail. The lessons there are timeless and apply today in the setting of any organization. From my experience it looks like we have a “Little Chicago: at the Suffield Ambulance.
In any organization, everything hinges on the quality of it’s leadership. I am concerned about the undercurrent within the SVAA. The comments and conversations I hear indicate to me that the SVAA is at a crossroads. We need to have a unity and consensus to guide the SVAA into the future. I am very concerned that an anonymous “Maceavellian Memo” was leaked outside the organization, finding it’s way to the press. It is of no small concern to me that someone might have done this feeling there was no other way to be heard. Perhaps this web page will help remove that false impression. It is obvious that changes are needed within the SVAA and very soon. I hear too many comments that the SVAA is a very cliquish organization full of favoritism and secrecy.
LAST YEARS “MACEAVILLIAN MEMO” AND SVAA LEADERSHIP RESPONSE
Last year an anonymous source spread a copy of what can best be described as either very evil forgery, or a disturbing factual memo, depending on whom you listen too. That argument was the center of the debate, but is perhaps the least important thing given the problems we need to deal with instead of trying to cover up because certain “kingmakers” don’t like the light of day.
Suddenly a copy of a “memo” appeared all over Suffield. The contents of the memo remain a mystery to most of us who did not receive it, or have not had an opportunity to read it first hand the response by the SVAA Board of Directors and The Town of Suffield is far less of a mystery.
The First Selectwoman appears to have been angered beyond belief by sending out The Suffield Police to track down the source. My first knowledge of this incident was on my office computer at work in Boston, while reading The Hartford Courant online. To say the least it was disturbing to me as a member of this organization. The police got around to calling on me about two weeks later, and the detective read me a few brief lines from the “memo.” The detective tried to trick me thinking I was involved in that incident. Information reached me through another police department that they even named me as a suspect. One of the reasons this web site is up is a constructive response to that false accusation. As a known human rights activist, I am a target on their radar screen for speaking up against police abuse at: http://www.gainesnet.com/police.htm
Other innocent people were wrongfully accused of being the author of this “memo.”
Two things disturb me about this affair. The first is the reports of heavy-handed police methods including threats to require SVAA members to take lie detector tests. There is no such requirement by law and this was patently illegal. Hints were dropped about “arrests.” Both these tactics were clearly attempts at intimidation that have backfired. Other members have told me they don’t bother take as many shifts as they used to, and feel alienated by SVAA leadership. I have noticed fewer people taking Medic 22 (back up) calls since the police “dragnet.” Overall more members appear to be taking fewer shifts. The response by officials has significantly eroded the trust, teamwork, camaraderie and unity within the SVAA. We now have only thirty active members with seventy seven names on the list. What gives here?
It also disturbs me as I hear some people in Suffield ask why the Suffield Police didn’t investigate the allegations made in the “memo.” I have not heard all of the allegations first hand. I have heard dangerous hearsay about allegations of corruption and private misconduct by certain senior SVAA officers and board members. It would have been better, in my opinion, to have openly investigated both up front as opposed to letting the matter linger. By not addressing these issues in the open in a timely fashion, much fuel has been added to the fires of speculation. The reputation of the SVAA and certain individuals will suffer as questions of a cover up persist.
It may be too late to peacefully bring the matter out in the open as the damage has been done. What is worse is the likelihood these issues will re-emerge in the future, with a renewed fury. That will not be a pretty day, under any conditions. The town lost the one chance it had to clear the air. The next go-round will endanger the future of the SVAA. The staged dog and pony show that passed as an annual meeting will someday blow back in their faces.
STUFFING THE BALLOT BOX
This is not a pretty subject but too many comments have reached my ears in the past two years on this subject. Some trusted members have told me that two certain “king makers” mounted a telephone campaign against me, using personal insults and false statements to make sure I did not win a seat of the Board of Directors. Having run three times, that is enough for me. If he fact is considered the last time I almost won, my loss was by one vote. We all need to do some thinking.
Why doesn’t SVAA post the vote count on the board? What has someone got to hide? Why aren’t the votes counted by an impartial witness as is the case at Windsor Volunteer Ambulance?
The practice of smear campaigns by telephone and other means begs another question. Why do certain key people always do this? I again consulted with a close friend who is a federal officer, and former board member of an area volunteer ambulance association. His opinion is this amounts to “owning the board,” by a certain “kingmaker.” Could a certain person be putting their kind of person on the board to insure control? This is how Mayor Daley did things in Chicago with his infamous “political machine.”
I know of many good qualified people that refuse to run for political office in both the public and private sector, because they wish to avoid this kind of mudslinging.
I see a lot of organizations with people in charge who got their positions by who they know and other devious means. Those organizations are in big trouble now as they are unable to retain or recruit licensed health care professionals. They are closing beds and losing revenue to organizations that promote free, responsible and open communication. It is time for a culture change in the SVAA, moving towards these modern management practices and away from the “good ole boy & gal” school of management.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
There are a number of people wanting change. I have started to hear calls for the resignation of most members of The SVAA Board of Directors, and many appointed officers. That is a really good start. We need to hold a members meeting to elect a new board of new people. Those with conflicts of interest should not be allowed to run again ever in the future, or hold officers positions. While it will require new people to step forward and that we recruit new talent, in the long run it will keep certain insiders from using SVAA as their private cash cow.
We need to overhaul the By-Laws with the members that are left in good standing to vote.
We need to recover the monies SVAA put out to set up and operate a private, for profit business. This would mean the cost of equipment, supplies, telephone lines, training and other items. If necessary legal action should be used to force those in power to account for their actions and pay up.
Those people who have abused their positions need to be removed from the SVAA permanently.
All of us as members need to pull together, and organize. The choice is ours, and the time is now. What are you going to do? If you fail to act, then you are a part of the problem too.
CHECK BACK OFTEN FOR UPDATES AS THEY HAPPEN!