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Fire board opens investigation into CPR card allegations

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Oct 6, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Fire Chief Matt Scott

Two Sanibel Fire and Rescue District employees are on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into an allegation that a non-district employee without the proper training was issued a CPR card.

At a special meeting on Sept. 23, the fire commission voted unanimously 3-0 to direct the district’s attorneys, the firm Lewis, Longman & Walker, to conduct an investigation into allegations concerning the issuance of a CPR card by a district employee to a person not employed by the district, who had not completed the training required for the card.

In a second motion, the commissioners also voted 3-0 to place Fire Chief Matthew Scott and Division Chief of Training Tim Barrett on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation into the allegations about the issuance of the CPR card to the individual not with the district.

At the start of the meeting, the district’s legal counsel provided an overview of the situation.

“In the last week or so, the district became aware of information regarding the issuance of a CPR card by a district employee to a person not employed by the district, who had not completed the required CPR training in order to get the card,” attorney James Linn, with Lewis, Longman & Walker, said. “Two district employees may have participated in or been aware of this activity.”

PHOTO PROVIDED Division Chief of Training Tim Barrett

“At this point, we really don’t have much information beyond this. But if true, this information could form the basis for disciplinary action against two district employees, Chief Scott and Division Chief Barrett,” he continued. “In order to obtain the facts concerning this matter, preserve the due process rights of the two employees and maintain ongoing district operations, I recommend that the board take two actions.”

Linn suggested that the commission direct his firm to conduct a thorough investigation, then present a complete report with the facts and recommendations to the board at its next meeting. He also suggested placing Scott and Barrett on leave pending the outcome of the findings and actions by the commission.

Prior to the votes taking place, some commissioners raised questions and concerns.

Commissioner Richard McCurry explained that he understands the board is responsible for decisions involving Scott, but sought confirmation that it also can make decisions regarding other employees.

“Ordinarily, the board would take action with regard to the fire chief. Subordinate employees, that action would be taken by the chief,” Linn said. “Under these circumstances, however, it’s my recommendation that the board take action and place both employees on administrative leave.”

Commissioner Bruce Cochrane voiced concern about the timeline for the investigation.

“I’d like to have this investigation expedited, not dragged out,” he said. “I’d like to have it done as quickly as possible, rather than the day before our meeting in October.”

Linn shared that his firm is on the same page.

“We would want to get that investigation completed and to the board as quickly as we can. We’re not going to wait until the day before your meeting,” he said. “But, as you have to know, these investigations — sometimes some are very cut and dry and take a few days, and some take longer based on how quickly we can gather statements and evidence.”

Cochrane responded that he hoped the firm would begin its investigation that day. He also questioned whether the commissioners would receive any updates on the investigation while it is underway.

“Or do I just sit and have to wait until the next commission meeting to have any clue about what’s going on?” Cochrane asked.

“We will certainly start today and we will try to wrap it up as quickly as we can,” Linn said.

“But while the investigation is going on, you’re probably not going to get any updates,” he added. “You’ll get a complete report at the end of the process.”

After the first vote, Cochrane reiterated his concerns prior to the second vote.

“I’d like it to be done as quick as possible,” he said of the investigation. “I would really prefer not to wait until the next regular meeting, but if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we have to do.”

The district’s counsel is expected to provide its report at the Oct. 14 meeting.