The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 22 - 1/25/01
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
DCI to investigate possible misuse of public money
by Rob Shaul
"A member of our community came forward and said he had a generator he'd sell us for a really good deal," said Pinedale EMS Supervisor Kris Hunt in an interview Tuesday.
Last week Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland asked the Division of Criminal Investigation to investigate the generator purchase following a complaint from Big Piney's Robin Miley that there may have been a misuse of public funds.
The purchase of the generator occurred nearly two years ago, continued Ms. Hunt. The Pinedale EMS was preparing for Y2K, and the possibility that power would be lost. The EMS wanted to have a power source for the Pinedale Ambulance Barn in that eventuality.
This is when Pinedale's Aidan Mullett approached them about his generator. Ms. Hunt estimated that a new generator would have cost the EMS $3,000. Aidan said he'd sell his generator to the EMTs for $1,000 plus the cost of a recent ambulance ride he'd taken - approximately $340.
The Pinedale EMS receives taxpayer dollars in the form of funding from the Rural Health Care District. However, the group is a private non-profit organization, and it does do fundraising on its own.
Ms. Hunt says the Pinedale EMS jumped at the chance to purchase a $3,000 generator for approximately $1,340 and promptly wrote a $1,000 check to Mr. Mullett from its own funds - not money it had received from the Rural Health Care District. She says the Pinedale EMS has a copy of its cancelled check and an invoice from Mr. Mullett. The cost for the generator was never sent to the Health Care Board as a voucher, she says.
Concerning Mr. Mullett's $340 ambulance bill, the plan was to have the Rural Health Care District send the bill to the Pinedale EMS, which would pay it as per its agreement with Mr. Mullett.
However, for whatever reason, this didn't happen. Instead, the District sent the bill to Mr. Mullett, who referred the District to the Pinedale EMS.
The confusion over who was to pay this bill went on for a year and a half, explains Ms. Hunt. Eventually, former Pinedale EMS Supervisor Gary Wilson wrote a personal check to Mr. Mullett for the amount on the ambulance bill. However, instead of depositing the check, Mr. Mullett simply countersigned it, and sent it onto the District, explains Ms. Hunt.
Somehow, Mr. Wilson's check came to the attention of Mr. Miley, who questioned it. He voiced his concern with the Board, and later with the Sheriff.
Ms. Hunt explained the circumstances surrounding the generator, ambulance bill and Mr. Wilson's personal check to the Board members during their meeting in Marbleton earlier this month. Later in the meeting, when Mr. Miley raised his concern, the Board members said they were satisfied that the generator had been purchased with the Pinedale EMS' own funds, and not public money. Therefore, it was none of the Board's concern.
"I am concerned that private personal documents were copied, and distributed to the Board without approval of the people involved," says Ms. Hunt. She says that details of the ambulance trip record are among those documents copied and distributed. According to the State of Wyoming EMS regulations, these are considered part of the patient's record, and cannot be copied and distributed to the general public, including the Board, without the patient's approval. "I believe it was grossly negligent of their (the Board's) clerk to ignore state statutes and make copies of those documents," says Ms. Hunt.
"Overall, I'm really disappointed in the system right now," she concludes. That the documents were copied and distributed, without any explanation, has wrongly made the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the generator look "shady and backhanded," says Ms. Hunt. She commends Mr. Wilson for paying the ambulance bill with his own money and believes he should be reimbursed.
Finally, Ms. Hunt says that she's spoken to a special agent with the FBI out of Cheyenne concerning the copying and distribution of the ambulance trip sheet. He told her that there is currently federal legislation pending that would make it against federal law to distribute this type of confidential patient information without the patient's consent. <
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