This newspaper faced a difficult decision in deciding how to report last week’s county commission meeting, which after a call to reinstate a fired paramedic devolved into a torrent of allegations against him.
Since the seemingly abrupt firing 16 months ago of ambulance director Steve Smith, controversy has surrounded the department. The director’s position was downgraded, the physician who initially served as medical director resigned, Tampa’s ambulance crew was forced to select a new chief, complaints were lodged with state regulators, the Peabody crew chief was fired, and the director who replaced Smith abruptly resigned.
Most of these actions, to the puzzlement of many citizens, occurred after closed-door meetings. Last Monday, for seemingly the first time, some of what may have been going on behind closed doors spilled out in an open, public session.
We normally do not print allegations unless we ourselves have investigated them or legal documents attesting to official investigations have been filed. We chose to do otherwise in this case because the public nature of the allegations would leave us vulnerable to charges of failing to report what we heard in an open, public setting.
Honestly, we do not know how to interpret any of this but believe that, given the public’s extreme interest in the long series of mainly unexplained actions involving the ambulance service, you, the reader, have the right to make up your own mind about what is going on. We therefore chose to publish not only a news story about the meeting but also a complete, unedited transcript of a recording our staff made of the meeting.
We are not attempting to stir controversy or portray any individual as hero or villain. We are simply offering you the chance to decide for yourself what to make of the unprecedented level of disagreement that surfaced in last week’s open, public forum.