Fire district board decision upheld by court

Larry Limpf

The decision by the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District board of trustees to discipline Mark Stahl, a battalion chief, has been affirmed by the Ottawa County Common Pleas Court.
Visiting Judge Janet Burnside ruled last week that the board of trustees based its decision on the “preponderance of reliable, probative and substantial evidence in the record.”
Stahl filed an administrative appeal to the court after the district board found him guilty of misconduct in office, suspended him for 60 days without pay and set a one-year probationary period for him. The board’s action stems from an August 2018 emergency run in which Justin Frank, an emergency medical technician, performed an intraosseous procedure on an elderly man but didn’t have the required certification for the procedure.
The board found that Stahl “knew or should have known “that an EMT had performed the I/O insertion that was beyond his certification and failed to report the violation after it became known to him.”
Judge Burnside wrote: “The board found Stahl knew only he and (paramedic) Cara Orra were authorized to perform the procedure and that it was his responsibility as battalion chief to know who had performed all procedures during the run. He obviously knew he had not done it, and had not seen Orra direct the procedure or do it herself.
“Therefore the board’s focus was on the state of Stahl’s knowledge at the conclusion of the emergency scene. It concluded it was his responsibility to question in his own mind who performed the I/O procedure since he had not done it and did not hear Orra direct the procedure or see her do it. His supervisory role compelled him to inquire and ascertain who had performed it. By this process of elimination, Stahl had to know an unauthorized person had performed the procedure. Having educated himself, it was his responsibility to report the violation to his superiors.”
In his complaint to the court, Stahl argued the board didn’t provide any evidence as to when he became aware of Frank’s action,
“It did not cite any evidence that anyone had told Stahl that Frank had done it,” his brief says. “It did not cite any rule, regulation, or protocol requiring Stahl to find out after the fact what happened at the scene for which the paramedic was in charge of all medical procedures and doing the run report. In short, there is nothing at all that is close to a preponderance of substantial, reliable and probative evidence on which to find Stahl guilty…”
Judge Burnside agreed with Stahl that one sanction set by the board – placing him on probation for a year “subject to removal without cause” violated his due process rights. She instructed the board to modify the probation to “subject to removal for cause.”
Attorneys for the board had already conceded the original sanction was an error.
In an email message, Stahl last week said he hadn’t consulted with his attorney to discuss a possible appeal.
Ottawa County Common Pleas Court Judge Bruce Winters recused himself from the case.


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