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EMS head tired of contention with commission chairman

Ongoing conflict with commissioner motive for resignation

Staff writer

After two years as head of Marion County Emergency Medical Services, director Ed Debesis’ last day is Thursday. He and his wife, Melissa, are moving to South Carolina, where he will work as a paramedic.

Debesis said ongoing conflict with county commission chairman Dianne Novak was the trigger for his resignation.

Debesis said he wants the public to know what they are dealing with.

“I want the general public to know this is not a vendetta on my part,” Debesis said.

Novak has frequently questioned EMS issues, funding, and decisions made by Debesis. At Monday’s meeting, she said EMS keeps funding made by teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes.

Not true, Debesis said.

“She has been given revenue reports that show the CPR classes,” he said. “Every class I teach, the money goes to the county.”

The money goes into a Marion Crew Fund budget that pays for equipment and supplies, Debesis said.

“I treat Ed exactly like I treat anybody else,” Novak said Tuesday. “I ask budget questions. That’s my big focus, the budget.”

She said she does not see CPR class revenue in the budget’s Marion Crew Fund.

Novak said at Monday’s meeting she was still trying to find out where the money is going.

She said she asked a woman in Salina who teaches CPR classes what happens with the money she is paid for classes.

“What I am told from American Heart Association is, if they are independent contractors, they give the class and the money they make is theirs to keep,” Novak said.

Asked if county EMS personnel teach classes as independent contractors, Novak said she does not know.

Conversations between Debesis and Novak during commission meetings have often been confrontational.

In March, Novak questioned having full-time staff at the Peabody station and was met with Debesis’ contention that she was “micromanaging” him by questioning his decisions. At the end of that meeting, Debesis returned to submit his resignation, which he later rescinded.

Debesis said he disagrees with other actions by Novak.

Novak has a social media page that once asked readers to tell her about any negative experiences they’d ever had with EMS.

That’s trying to discredit county employees, Debesis said. He contends the posting violated a section of the county’s employee policy book that addresses social media.

That policy states that county social media pages must be approved by the commissioners or a department head, are to disburse time-sensitive or promotional information, and should refrain from posting political opinions.

He said other actions she has taken have harassed him and his employees, and violated the standard of employee conduct polices.

“The question I have for her is, how are our county employees supposed to follow a county policy, when she cannot?” Debesis asked.

Novak denies that the policy handbook applies to her because she is an elected official instead of an employee.

“He’s entitled to his opinion, but he’s incorrect,” Novak said.

During budget planning in July, Novak said EMS and Road and Bridge department budgets needed more scrutiny. Budget conversations between Novak and Debesis once again became testy.

Several times Debesis has accused Novak of “micromanaging” him and his department, which Novak denies.

“If I’m micromanaging him I’d have to be in his department at all times and telling him how to run his department,” Novak said.

“I don’t know how the voters in her district can sit back and watch her destroy our county like she’s doing,” Debesis said. “We are losing good county employees because of her and we will lose more.”

Debesis said he has another thought for voters.

“I want the public to be aware of the difference between a county administrator and a five-member county commission,” Debesis said. “A county administrator keeps the circus out of the meeting.”

Last modified Sept. 20, 2018

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