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Medstar official suspended over alleged fuel pilfering

Sep. 12, 2012


Lee County officials said Wednesday they’ve placed the head of Medstar’s maintenance program on administrative leave, while law enforcement officials investigate claims he stole more than $600 worth of helicopter fuel.

Greg Schiegner, the director of maintenance, will continue to collect his salary but is prohibited from coming to work, Assistant County Manager Holly Schwartz said.

County officials Wednesday asked the sheriff’s office to investigate a complaint alleging Schiegner took about 135 gallons of helicopter fuel in May to use on his farm.

Sheriff’s officials told Schwartz they would refer the complaint to law enforcement in Avon Park, because that’s where the fuel was allegedly taken out of a county helicopter.

“They, number one, didn’t have jurisdiction here, so they are going to follow up with law enforcement in Avon Park,” Schwartz said.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately have documents regarding the county’s request. Law enforcement officials in Avon Park, in Highlands County, could not be reached Thursday.

Lee deputies had said they did not intend to investigate a sworn complaint by former Medstar pilot Arnold McAllister because he “is no longer affiliated with Medstar, he is not the victim of a crime and therefore, not able to report a crime in this case,” according to the sheriff’s report written Saturday.

In Schiegner’s absence, county officials must find a liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration.

County management had tasked Schiegner to serve as the FAA’s contact as the agency investigates $3 million the county billed for medical flights in apparent violation of federal rules.

“We’ve got to get permission from the FAA to assign someone new,” Schwartz said.

Schiegner did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Schiegner kept his job when county officials abruptly suspended the medical flight program last month and terminated the three pilots: McAllister, Ricky Tackett and Dennis McFarlane.

An investigation into the alleged theft will mark the fourth review of the program: the Clerk of Court is set to audit it; the human resources department is conducting an internal review; and FAA inspectors will visit the county Sept. 25.

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The alleged theft occurred after Schiegner was told to remove fuel from the helicopter so it could be repainted.

Schiegner allegedly bragged to the program’s former director that he took the fuel out of the county’s helicopter in Avon Park and brought the fuel back to his farm, according to a May 17 email from Tackett. The email was included in the complaint.

Tackett wrote he was “stunned” and wondered “why they would not have kept the fuel to put back in the aircraft when they were done with it,” according to the May 17 email.

Schwartz could not immediately produce a county procedure for the proper handling of fuel once it’s removed from a helicopter.

Fuel taken from military helicopters is “normally reused in aircraft, provided it passes quality testing,” according to the Environmental Standard Operating Procedure at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

The program’s former director, Rob Fulton, charged $644 to a county credit card for fuel to fly the helicopter back to Lee County, according to a receipt included in McAllister’s complaint.

Commissioner Frank Mann said he wants the matter quickly resolved.

“The bottom line is, I’m just glad all this is going to be put to sleep as soon as possible,” Mann said.

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