Lee County administrators met with rank-and-file public safety workers Wednesday, before starting a search to replace their boss.
In the first of three forums this week, County Manager Karen Hawes and Assistant County Manager Holly Schwartz gave emergency medical workers a chance to air grievances.
“They shared a lot of concerns and we have action items we are going to follow up on and work to improve the situation,” Schwartz said.
The meetings, Schwartz said, are part of an effort to move forward in the wake of recent management shake-ups. Higher-ups in the public safety department were not invited to the meeting, Schwartz said.
County officials will embark this week on a national search to replace former public safety director John Wilson, Schwartz said.
Wilson’s departure Friday was preceded by revelations the county mismanaged its medical flight program, Medstar.
His second-in-command, EMS Chief Kim Dickerson, was placed on administrative leave the same day.
The two face scrutiny for their role in the program’s suspension last month.
At the time, Wilson and Dickerson claimed they grounded the county’s medical helicopters to seek an obscure accreditation from an out-of-state organization.
That contention, however, became irrelevant after it was revealed Medstar had failed to meet federal safety mandates and violated federal rules by billing for about $3.3 million in medical flights.
Four days before Wilson stepped down and Dickerson was relieved of her duties, the two were the subject of criticism at a commission meeting.
About two dozen emergency workers turned out for the public forum and listened as speakers faulted Dickerson, Wilson and Hawes.
One of the criticisms came from former flight paramedic Jason Ausman. The seven-year veteran of EMS announced he resigned because he “can no longer listen to the lies and be held by the gag orders and their threats.”
“If any of the employees seated behind me or myself had done that we would have been immediately terminated,” said Ausman about efforts to conceal Medstar’s mismanagement from the public.
“Why is there a different standard for Karen Hawes, John Wilson and Kim Dickerson?” he said.