COLLIER COUNTY — Collier County commissioners have declined to launch a probe of the medical director for the Department of Emergency Medical Services regarding a cheating feud with several fire departments, something that East Naples Fire Chief Doug Dyer sought during a pitch to the board Tuesday.
Commissioners decided nonetheless to direct Deputy County Manager Leo Ochs to have staff members look into ways that resources of EMS and the fire departments could be used more efficiently and effectively for the public’s safety. The suggestion came from Commissioner Fred Coyle.
“What I do want our staff to do is look at a broad-based solution of integration of all our assets, and not consolidation, but to integrate all of our resources in the county in an effort to provide people with the best possible emergency services,” Coyle said.
He said staff members may be able to come up with recommendations, which could be aired publicly, that could resolve ill will between EMS Medical Director Dr. Robert Tober and the fire departments.
For the first time since Tober in May accused North Naples and East Naples firefighters of cheating on medications’ protocol tests, the commission was being asked by Dyer to weigh in on the controversy.
Dyer spoke to the board, through a public petition, about an investigation conducted by Naples attorney Donald Day that found no evidence of cheating. Dyer then suggested the commission conduct its own investigation into Tober, his motives and that of other EMS officials.
Commissioners were given a copy of Day’s findings in late July when it was completed. Day was hired by the two fire departments to do the probe.
Dyer told the board that Tober wants to derail consolidation of EMS and fire districts and the cheating allegation aims to achieve that end.
“(Tober) was aided and abetted by senior members of your county staff who also wish to advance an anti-consolidation agenda,” Dyer said. “I will not recommend a course of action to you about what to do with Dr. Tober or the members of your staff. That should be obvious.”
Dyer was speaking for the East Naples fire district only; the North Naples fire district was not part of the petition.
Coyle pointed out that a lawsuit against Tober and EMS could be filed by an East Naples Fire District training officer over the cheating issue. Coyle said it would be best for the board to not discuss the Day report because of the likelihood of being pulled into the lawsuit.
Because Dyer spent much of the 10 minutes allotted to public petitioners’ defending his fire fighters and disparaging Tober, Commissioner Jim Coletta suggested that Tober be given the opportunity to speak. That didn’t happen and the board stuck to rules that do not allow others to address issues raised in public petitions.
Fiala thanked Dyer and said the county had been getting a lot of correspondence from Tober.
“We get a barrage of letters from Dr. Tober and you guys just take it on the chin,” Fiala said.
Coyle disagreed and said the fire districts have been just as vocal with the media over the cheating allegation. Coyle added that, historically, the fire departments have never gotten along with any EMS medical director.
On a related issue raised by East Naples Fire Commissioner Tom Cannon, the board agreed to have a workshop to see if a better interlocal agreement can be forged between the fire district and EMS over the advanced life support agreement. Cannon spoke of how the two agencies worked together when the agreement was first penned two years ago but the relationship has since deteriorated.
When asked by Commissioner Tom Henning whether East Naples fire would look to have its own medical director for an ALS non-transport program, Cannon said if a new agreement can’t be worked out and the old one is terminated, then East Naples would look to acquire an ALS license.
Henning said having multiple medical directors for advanced life support services would lead to inconsistencies and that’s not good for the public.
“I just won’t go there,” Henning said.
Cannon said he agreed with Henning but also said “you can’t hurt us for wanting to try.”