The Monroe City Ambulance District Board discussed a letter received from the Missouri Ethics Commission concerning two official complaint forms that had been filed on January 27, during a regular session board meeting on February 18 at 6:30 p.m. The complaints included conflict of interest, gross incompetence by failing to act, possible embezzlement and a narcotic investigation within the district. The complaints were filed by two current employees working at the district, including Jared LaForce, flight paramedic and Jamie Allen, EMT basic.
Board members in attendance included President Howard Willard, Vice President Julia Wilson, Secretary JoAnn Woodall and Board Member Dianne Ketsenburg. Those not present were Treasurer Gary Gupton and Board Member Jeff Ferry.
Monroe City Ambulance Director Blair Joiner read the letters which had been received out loud to the board, then passed the complaints to each board member to read.
LaForce’s complaints included reasons to file explaining he had made the unpleasant, yet necessary, decision to file a formal complaint against the Monroe City Ambulance District Board of Directors for a number of reasons. LaForce, who was in attendance, stated, “We need to remedy things that have been a stain on our district. It is no secret there has been issues when the district was under the administration of Dianne Osborn.” LaForce referenced the board missing one third of the meetings, not being properly trained and letting personal feelings undermine the best interest of the district. LaForce stated, “We still have three budgets that do not balance, minutes were not previously taken correctly.”
Complaints by both LaForce and Allen included gross incompetence. LaForce stated, “For the past several years the Monroe City Ambulance District Board of Directors has been failing to properly oversee the districts operations and administrations. Until recently, none of the current board members had received the required training needed to hold the position. Two thirds of the board have yet to attend the required training. This lack of preparation and training has resulted in a major narcotics investigation, as well as growing concerns regarding embezzlement. It is quite clear that this board is not equipped to handle these situations and therefore struggle to make prudent decisions.”
Allen wrote, “Up to this last year, the board of directors have not been to a required state training for board members to uphold the said position. Two of the six have taken the course in 2019. Yet the other four board members have not taken the required training. The lack of training and preparation had led to a major narcotics investigation, along with a major concern of embezzlement.” Board members are required by state statute to complete the training within 12 months of being appointed or elected on the board. Allen shared, “The board can have a trainer come to the district and hold a class. If there are 30 or more in attendance the class is free, if less than 30 people there would be a cost.” Willard explained, “We plan to send two members to a free training being held in Kearney this spring. We had planned to send two members each year. I believe that is a step in the right direction.” Currently, the board members who have received training are Julia Wilson and JoAnn Woodall.
The letters of complaint also stated, “The board showed refusal to uphold responsibility to the district and tax payers. There is sufficient evidence that embezzlement has taken place. One employee has turned that evidence over to the FBI. However, it has been suggested to the Board that an audit be performed. The board has yet to take action and have an audit performed. Our accounts continue to reflect discrepancies.”
Concerning the conflict of interest, LaForce wrote in his complaints, “There remains a major conflict of interest between the board and an employee who are first degree relatives. This conflict of interest has affected many areas of district operation and continues to be a growing concern. This conflict of interest has been seen in the form of the board member petitioning for money on behalf of the employee, influencing decisions specifically regarding the employee, and intimidating/threatening administrative personnel. There has been no action by the other board members to correct this.” Board Member Dianne Ketsenburg stated, “I have never voted for my son to obtain a raise. The only time I voted was when it was to raise wages for the staff as a whole. As for my voting for him to be reimbursed for mowing and tending to the landscaping here at the base, I would have suggested that be done for any person doing the job.”
The complaints also included a statement written against Board members conspiring outside of formal meetings to conduct official district business.
After the complaints were read, LaForce stated, “Before moving forward with filing a complaint with the Attorney General, I would like to give the board a chance to give their thoughts on investigating for embezzlement. My concern is not so much the conflict of interest as much as the embezzlement,” adding the question, “How can we make this place run efficiently?”
Woodall replied, “I am in favor of having an audit completed.” Monroe City Police Chief Tyler Wheeler was in attendance and gave insight on how to go about having an audit completed. Willard stated, “At the time all this was discussed we were going through a change of management and the FBI was visiting regularly. The cost of the audit was also a concern. I do believe it is time.” LaForce shared, “The audit could tell us the problem with the balance or tell us if we need to go further on a possible embezzlement.”
A motion was made to move forward with the audit process with all in favor. Allen suggested the board look for a local attorney to sit in on board meetings. The board agreed the idea was worth looking into and stated they would get bids from three different attorneys.