Readers, if you have been following posts over the past couple of years, you know that our local rescue squad has been in trouble. My latest Letter to the Editor (published in the Moorefield Examiner, April 9, 2014) addresses the latest events in this ordeal. The group that has opposed the County Commission’s imposition of a monthly $10 fee per household to fund the Ambulance Authority, contacted the state ethics board. The ethics board convened a commission of judges to review the claims. Essentially the prosecution claimed that one of the commissioner’s had vested financial interest in the scheme (e.g. owned shares of the bank that would take a loss if the defaulted loan was not covered by the county funding the purchase of the foreclosed rescue squad building). The defense basically said, oh, well, maybe the old-boy-network covered itself, but everything was done within the law. Sounds like Run from Judgment to me. But, as no one around here would know that reference, I toss my opinion into the public forum.
Over the past decade, since the Mathias-Baker Rescue Squad constructed its building in Baker, I have been following their activities, from attending fund-raiser dinners to the recent ethics hearings against two county commissioners who voted to form and fund the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority. The question of motivation appears to a key issue in the debate: are people “helping neighbors” or “self-serving”.
Most of us would commend a group of people to took the trouble to organize around helping each other, especially for emergency services. I would conclude that most of the volunteer fire and rescue squads began with this motivation. Furthermore, as the time and financial commitments to be trained to perform rescue roles became more expensive, the volunteers may have continued to see themselves as primarily motivated to help the community.
On the other hand, apparently charitable behavior and public service can also be self-serving. With the above expenses reaching into the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, those performing rescue activities sought ways to make their volunteering into paid activity. This appears to be where the rift began. A paid rescue squad needs a business plan, even when its intent is to be not-for-profit. Unfortunately, the MBRS’s business plan appears to have been flawed by neglecting to understand and adhere to Medicare/Medicaid regulations.
Becoming a business also results in some people being hired, and others passed by. This appear to have lead to accusations that the MBRS was becoming self-serving by hiring volunteers, friends, and family. Hiring some people also means that other applicants might not be hired. Was the person who took photos of patients walking from MBRS transport vehicles into dialysis and then sent these to Medicare motivated by a desire to help neighbors or self-serving in getting revenge?
If we have been reading the Moorefield Examiner, we know how the mud has been flying ever sense. Were the members of the MBRS who approached the County Commission requesting $300,000 by the next day wanting to keep helping neighbors or self-serving to cover their failed business plan? Was the legal investigators from Medicare/Medicaid helping neighbors on a national scale assure that funds were used correctly, or self-serving by racking up more “fraud” cases to justify that federal funds are wisely spent? Was the Capon Valley Bank covering the $1 million Medicare/Medicaid fine wanting to help neighbors keep an ambulance service in the area, or self-serving because their customers live near by? Was the County Commission helping neighbors by providing the requested emergency funds without an audit, or self-serving by keeping the bank and local businesses (including at least one commissioner’s various operations) from the risk of not having rescue services nearby (i.e. increased insurance rates for a school sports programs, an annual rodeo, heavy machinery at the mulch company across the street…)? Was the County Commission further helping neighbors or self-serving by rescuing the squad again by purchasing the foreclosed rescue squad building, for about the price of the outstanding loan, and setting up the HCEAA over heated debates at 2, or maybe 3 meetings? Were the petitioners who have chased various accusations of criminal wrong doing against the MBRS and two commissioners seeking to help neighbors resolve this crisis, or self-serving to evade the reality that public services, such as ambulance service, cost money?
I think that we need to step back from all this emergency thinking for some private and public self-reflection on our motivation to engage on any side of these debates. We are a small community which does not need enemy camps forming, such that we have embarrassing outbursts about whether someone whom we loath should be allowed to work at a polling station.
Next we need our County Commission to be thinking ahead rather than reacting to emergencies. Ambulance and fire service, safe water and waste disposal, police services, business development, zoning and housing construction are better run with forethought that knee-jerk decision making.
Finally, we need accountability for any requests for public funding of a project. Anyone who approaches the County Commission for annual or one-time funding should arrive at the meeting with up-to-date books, an audit, and willingness to allow our public officials to report to us tax-payers how our money is being spent.
In conclusion, let us recall that Christ and his followers often defied the law, and emphasized personal motivation and forgiveness. The same action could be just or wrong based not on what was done by why. And, when someone acted wrongly, Christ advocated for forgiveness, rather the condemnation.