Restructuring is taking place at Warren County EMS. It appears the controversy that gripped the department for more than a year is quietly coming to an end.
Preston Denney has been named interim director of EMS after he was asked by County Executive Herschel Wells to take the reins of the department.
“I didn’t ask for it, but Herschel discussed it with me and I volunteered to try it,” said Denney. “Of the supervisors who are there, I’ve been there longer than any of the others. I’ve volunteered to do this, until they decide what they are going to do.”
Denney has been with EMS since 1999. He went full time in 2004. He was appointed as a supervisor in 2010 and has been in that capacity since that time until his first day as interim director Jan. 4.
The information was presented during the county Safety Committee meeting Monday. In attendance were committee members Teddy Boyd, chairman, Carl D. Bouldin, Randy England, Ron Lee and Charles Morgan and Wells.
The appointment of Denney is the next step in ending the problems within the department that came to light in 2014 when county commissioners began to question an ongoing state audit to investigate timecard issues. Specifically, there were employees clocking each other in and out during times when they were not at work. When the audit findings were released in 2015, it found exactly that.
Per the audit, approximately $23,834 in wages were paid to 14 EMS employees for time worked at another entity or for time undocumented.
County commissioners began to question leadership in the department. Brian Jennings, director since 2007, voluntarily resigned in December “to pursue other avenues in emergency medicine.” He remains with the department as a paramedic.
Speculation in the community is two of the main employees in the timecard scandal have resigned.
Bouldin, who did not confirm the rumors, did say a special prosecutor has declined to press criminal charges against any of the employees, but the problem has “been taken care of.”
“The department’s records were in such bad shape that there’s no proof, so they aren’t going to prosecute. That’s what I’ve been told by the special prosecutor,” said Bouldin. “I think most of that’s been taken care of anyway.”
Wells says he and Denney are working on a written policy for the department, which it hasn’t had in the past.
The policy should outline responsibilities in the department to increase supervision, says Lee.
“I think Mr. Denney is going to have our goals in mind,” said Lee. “Charles, you and I have been on this committee for a little while. You remember years ago when we wanted a little more authority or responsibility on our shift supervisor. Preston was one of those, but he never really got it handed off to him. I think Preston understood what we tried to do and it just wasn’t implemented. I think he could help implement stuff like that now.”
Morgan agreed. “We need supervisors and a manager who supports those supervisors. Then, if there’s disciplinary action, the manager needs to follow through with what needs to be done and do it. Don’t give them a title and nothing to do.”
“I will do everything that I can,” said Denney. “Whatever you need me to do, just let me know.”
Morgan stated, “If you do what you need to do, you aren’t going to be very popular. That’s where we can help you and Herschel can help you.”
“I’m behind him or in front of him, either way,” said Wells.
Morgan added, “I am, too. If you need something, come to us. I’m sure Herschel will take care of it before it gets to us but we know we are putting you in a bad place.”
“I want you to be stern,” said England to Denney.
Denney has been asked to make changes to the billing department hours.
“The only complaint I’ve ever heard about billing, and I’ve heard a few, is the hours the office keeps,” said Morgan. “That they leave at 3:30 p.m. People can’t get in to pay their bills. We’ve talked about it before.”
Bouldin says the billing office should be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Committee members unanimously agreed to change the billing office hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with staggered one-hour lunches for the two employees, in order to keep someone in the office during those hours.
A departmental policy will be presented to the committee for its review. No time has been set for the hiring process for a permanent director.