County commissioners were to meet Monday with an emergency medical services consultant about the future of EMS while remaining embroiled in controversy surrounding the possible reinstatement of fired Peabody paramedic Larry Larsen.
Randy Dallke asked fellow commissioners Nov. 19 to put Larsen back on the Peabody crew, to which outgoing EMS director Brandy McCarty responded with allegations of patient endangerment and sexual harassment.
Commissioners blocked out an hour to meet Monday with Rice County EMS director Terry David about using a consultant to address issues plaguing EMS, including staff shortages, low morale, and the director position left vacant by McCarty’s resignation.
The Nov. 19 meeting became heated after Dallke presented a “Statement of Commitment” by Larsen, outlining 10 things Larsen would do to “be the best I can be both personally and professionally” if he were to be reinstated.
Dallke said Larsen had provided it at Dallke’s request after several hours of conversation with Larsen and his wife, Karen.
Chairman Dan Holub criticized the letter, saying Larsen knew there were problems and did nothing about them.
Commissioner Lori Lalouette said she was open to discussing Larsen’s return. Holub said he would consider limited reinstatement, restricting Larsen’s work to heart issues.
McCarty, whose resignation as full-time director becomes effective this week, then launched into a three-minute monologue of concerns and allegations as to why she would not want Larsen to return.
McCarty questioned Larsen’s skills as a trainer and alleged she had been told by others that he would be moving out of the county in two months.
Saying that Peabody EMS had been on limited “first responder” status or out of service 23 times in the past three months, McCarty alleged Larsen once was in Hillsboro when he was supposed to be on call in Peabody “saving lives.”
“When he has to drive over the speed limit to get to Hillsboro to save somebody’s life, no — that’s endangerment of him, which I will not have, and endangerment to my patient,” she said.
She also claimed that Larsen had given permission for a technician without a current driver’s license to drive an ambulance.
She referred to a list of 25 offenses for which county employees can be disciplined or terminated, and said, “He beats more than he doesn’t.”
Then came an allegation of sexual harassment.
“I can list off more things that he’s violated,” she said, “from sexual harassment, from grabbing somebody’s butt, that is not appropriate for Marion County EMS.”
Holub immediately cut McCarty off and turned toward a table where reporters were seated.
“I’d appreciate it, newspaper: exercise some judgment and common sense and didn’t print that,” he said.
This newspaper’s rationale for not acceding to that request is included in a commentary to be found on the editorial page.
McCarty pressed on, bringing up Larsen’s resignation under duress as interim EMS director in 2007, that the service would be at risk for “bullying” if Larsen returned, and that she would “gather memos” from Marion and Hillsboro people who she suggested would be opposed to Larsen’s return.
At that point, Holub firmly cut her off.
“Wait, no, we terminated this conversation; we’re not going to hear any more,” he said. “We just need to chill out. All we’re doing is making headlines now.”
Larsen did not attend the meeting, but when reached later for comment said he was “floored” by what transpired.
“Right now I’m just in shock,” he said. “I think that this is unjustifiable. I think it’s unprofessional that this was discussed in an open meeting.
“Before this was brought up in a public meeting there should have been some interaction with the commissioners, the county EMS director, the county attorney, and myself, and perhaps an attorney I would have on retainer to investigate this, because these claims are all unjustified.”
Larsen said the only time he had formally met with commissioners since McCarty became director was Oct. 26, the day he was fired after a five-minute executive session.
“There’s not an instance where I’ve ever been counseled for inappropriate activity with anyone,” Larsen said. “I find it very interesting that there’s no oral or written documentation that I can recall that would support these allegations.”
Larsen also disputed McCarty’s claim that he intended to move within two months.
“If I was moving in two months, why go through all this effort?” he said.
Larsen said he might consider moving after his wife takes nursing board exams in April, but as of now the Larsens have no plans to do so.
“How can we say we’re moving when she doesn’t know where she’s going to work?” Larsen said.
While dismayed with the tone and content of the meeting, Larsen found one positive aspect to it.
“I have to be appreciative that the county commissioners are looking into the possibility of reinstating me,” he said.
While Monday’s agenda also includws 20 minutes for McCarty to discuss “department business,” it was unknown at press time whether Larsen’s status would be discussed.
Because of early deadline, this holiday week coverage of Monday’s meeting will be available online at http://marioncountyrecord.com and in print next week, when we return to our normal Wednesday publication schedule.