Leicester Emergency Medical Services Department Executive Director Robert Wilson and Training Instructor Karen Durant Cited for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
Falsely claimed that EMTs completed a required 24-hour recertification training course
The State Ethics Commission approved Disposition Agreements in which two Leicester Emergency Medical Services (“EMS”) Department employees admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, for their involvement in providing false records claiming that several Emergency Medical Technicians (“EMTs”) had completed 24 hours of recertification training in 2008.
EMS Executive Director Robert Wilson and EMT Karen Durant admitted to submitting records that claimed 12 EMTs, including themselves, had attended the minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction when they had not. Pursuant to the Agreements, both Wilson and Durant paid civil penalties of $2,000.
Massachusetts law requires EMTs to renew their certification every two years. The recertification course must include a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction. Leicester EMS received state approval for a training program over three days in September 2008, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, to be led by Durant as program coordinator and instructor. Wilson, as EMS executive director, was ultimately responsible for ensuring that all EMTs had received the proper training.
In October 2008, the State Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Emergency Medical Services (“OEMS”) received information suggesting that the EMTs who participated in the course did not complete 24 hours of classroom instruction. The OEMS investigated and determined that the second day of instruction was held for no more than four hours and the third day did not take place at all. Durant told OEMS that she believed all the required material had been covered during the shortened classroom sessions, though she signed off on all the attendance sheets that indicated the EMTs had attended the full 24 hours. Durant sent two emails to the course attendees regarding the OEMS investigation, in which she asked them to falsely corroborate that her course included 24 hours of classroom instruction.
Following its investigation, OEMS revoked Durant’s EMT certification for three months beginning May 2, 2009. The town of Leicester suspended Durant during the same time period, part of which she went without pay. The OEMS also issued letters of reprimand to all 12 EMTs involved and ordered them to re-take the certification refresher training. Additionally, the OEMS cited Leicester EMS for failing to meet standards for recertification of its staff.
Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees from knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use their official positions to secure for themselves or others unwarranted privileges which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals. By falsely certifying that the EMTs attending the September 2008 recertification course completed the mandatory requirement of a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction, Durant violated section 23(b)(2). By falsely attesting that he completed the required hours of instruction, and allowing his EMT subordinates to do the same, Wilson violated section 23(b)(2).
Durant and Wilson paid the maximum $2,000 civil penalty for violations of the conflict of interest law occurring prior to September 2009, when the Ethics Reform Law became effective. The Ethics Commission can now impose civil penalties of up to $10,000 for a violation of most sections of the conflict of interest law, including section 23, for conduct occurring after September 2009.