The Putnam Examiner

Patterson FD Member Alleges Conflicts of Interest on EMS Vote

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As the Patterson town board looks to move ahead with a town-run emergency medical services program, one member of the Patterson Fire Department Board of Directors is questioning whether possible conflicts of interest hampered the board to take an independent vote when it decided to create the new town controlled service.

At a meeting last month, the board voted 4-0 to move ahead after it voted in October to take the first steps in the process after a committee recommended a town wide EMS. Right now, the town hires EMStar to staff during the day and volunteers take over the night. Starting 2017, it will solely be through the town.

But Patterson resident Monica DeFeo, who is the Patterson Volunteer Fire Department’s recording secretary and EMT, questioned why committee members that recommended the new EMS service could also be potentially hired to run the EMS. She further questioned why two town board members part of the group were allowed to vote on the matter.

The final vote was 3-2, with the two committee members–Supervisor Rich Williams and Councilman Peter Dandreano–voting in favor of the new EMS. Councilman Shawn Rogan also voted in favor while councilmen Kevin

Burns and Charles Cook voted against it. Town Attorney Donald Rossi said there was no inappropriate action taken by the town board, calling the committee only advisory and not given any further authority. The town attorney gave the town board a written legal opinion on the matter, similar to what he explained to DeFeo in which he believes the town board did nothing wrong. He did note though he wasn’t hired to make opinions on conflicts of interest like an ethics board.
“It could be staffed entirely by people, conceivably, that have an interest,” he said. “Could be staffed by others who don’t.”

DeFeo also questioned whether Williams and Dandreano should have voted after being on the committee.

“The two members of the committee should have excused themselves,” she argued. “And then the proposal would not have gone through.”

Rossi said Williams and Dandreano monitored and worked with the committee to formulate opinions as “ad- hoc members” and there was plenty of precedent in New York State that dictates the two town board members could be on the committee and then vote.

“They did exactly what they’re charged to do,” he said.

After DeFeo also alleged the town would raise taxes with the new service, Williams said taxes are remaining under the tax cap and up one percent overall.

Also during the meeting, Patterson Fire Department president Eleanor Smith saidsheheardrumorsthetownwanted EMStar to staff the ambulances, but Williams refuted that and said he has not had any contact with EMStar.

The new EMS set-up in the town has preliminary approval from New York State, pending filing a roster of personnel and ensuring the ambulance is inspected properly, Williams said.

The EMS administrator is going to be tested through the Putnam County personnel department, Williams said, and the employment help wanted advertisement has gone out. The deadline to return the application is Dec. 14.

Williams said in order for the town to hire EMTs, the process will go through the county and “moving forward with some speed.”

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