By Stan Welch
County officials have confirmed that the Williamston EMS squad is under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), although they were quick to stress that there are only allegations at this stage. The active investigation is expected to begin within the next two weeks.
Those allegations surfaced in a letter sent by several Williamston EMS employees to county director of emergency services Scott Stoller. From there, the allegations were presented to the Sheriff’s office, which then contacted SLED.
As reported last week in The Journal, some of the key allegations mentioned in the letter, which is dated May 1 of this year, include the redirection of grant funds intended for the procurement of new twelve lead cardiac monitors for use in making payroll and paying other bills. The letter expressed the concern that the vendor of those monitors may appear at any moment, expecting payment for the equipment.
Another major issue was the cancellation, without notice to the employees, of their health insurance benefits on April 27, but backdated to October of 2014. The monies withheld from employees’ paychecks were reportedly used to pay bills and meet payroll, but have not been reimbursed to the employees.
People associated with other squads have told The Journal that providing insurance to squad members is not a legal requirement; rather it is a means of being competitive in attracting and retaining trained personnel. The withholding of deductions from employees’ wages in order to provide such benefits, and then redirecting those funds, is a matter for inquiry, however.
Around the same time as the issuing of the letter, former Chief Joe Barr resigned to the request of the squad, and Leah Davis was selected to serve as interim chief. The board of directors has met at least once with county officials, and according to a source familiar with the situation, tried their best to turn the squad and its attendant problems over to the county.
State law prohibits such a rescue, but the Anderson County Council, following a thirty minute executive session to discuss the situation, did authorize county administrator Rusty Burns to execute any interim contracts necessary to provide uninterrupted emergency medical services to the people of Anderson County.
Essentially, the resolution, which passed unanimously by Anderson County Council Tuesday night, removes the necessity for a special called meeting if it becomes necessary to designate the Pelzer Rescue Squad, for example, to cover Williamston’s territory. Burns could simply act with the prior approval of the Council.
In other action Tuesday night, the Council recognized the Palmetto High School AFJROTC Training Corps for winning the 2014-2015 Distinguished Unit Award.
Council also approved a resolution of support for Watson Engineering Inc. to seek and receive economic development bonds from the South Carolina Jobs and Economic Development Authority (JEDA) in an amount not to exceed $8.75 million. County administrator Rusty Burns assured the Council that the resolution of support did not require any financial investment whatsoever from the county.