Fire district board files response in Stahl case

Larry Limpf

Attorneys for the board of trustees of the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District have filed a response in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court to a battalion chief’s challenge of a 2019 ruling by the board against him.
Battalion chief Mark Stahl is contesting the board ruling that found him guilty of misconduct in office and has asked the court to reverse the decision.
In a response filed last month, the board argues that it met its statutory and administrative requirements in coming to its conclusion.
The board’s ruling followed an August 2018 emergency run to a Williston residence where an intraosseous procedure was performed on an elderly man by an emergency medical technician who didn’t have the required certification for the procedure.
A disciplinary hearing for chief Stahl was held Aug. 29, 2019 before the district board of trustees which found him not guilty of a misfeasance charge and guilty of a charge of misconduct in office. The board said the evidence didn’t support a finding he “ordered or knowingly permitted EMT-Basic Justin Frank to perform an I/O medical procedure in violation of his EMT certification authority and district protocol.”
Chief Stahl and Cara Orra, a paramedic, were the only responders on scene certified to perform the procedure. Stahl had twice unsuccessfully attempted to start an intravenous insertion in the man’s arm while Orra was attempting to intubate him. Frank performed the I/O on the man’s leg, according to testimony during the hearing.
However, the board ruled Stahl was “guilty of misconduct in office by reason of nonfeasance, failing to administratively address the issue of …Frank performing an I/O procedure in violation of his …certification authority and district protocol when…Stahl knew or should have known of the occurrence of Frank performing an I/O medical procedure…”
The decision also says Stahl failed to “properly report the violation.”
Stahl’s brief argues the board’s reasoning wasn’t sound.
“The flaw with the board’s finding of guilty on the charge of misconduct is this: If the board could not conclude from the evidence that Stahl had directed or knowingly permitted Frank to do the I/O, it could not properly find from the evidence that Stahl knew Frank had done the I/O,” the brief says. “The findings of not guilty on the first charge of knowingly permitting Frank to do the I/O but then guilty of knowing that Frank had done the procedure are directly contradictory to each other without any evidence that after the fact, Stahl had become aware that Frank had done the I/O procedure. And no such evidence was presented.”
In its responding brief, the district board counters that the board performed its statutory duties “to assure its decision was supported by the preponderance of substantial, reliable and probative evidence.”
“That the evidence may not prove substantial enough to support the fire board finding battalion chief Stahl guilty on one charge does not mean that it is automatically then not enough to support a finding of guilt on (a) wholly different or lesser charge,” the brief says. “He could have – and should have – concluded that someone other than Orra was performing the I/O procedure on the patient’s leg. Even if there was still any doubt, Frank having subsequently thanked him for the opportunity to perform the procedure eliminates this doubt. As a battalion chief, he is expected to know the certifications of the men and women under his command – and should have known that only he and Orra could perform the I/O procedure.”
While there was conflicting testimony at the hearing about the incident, there was “significant testimony that Stahl was - if not actively directing – nonetheless well aware that someone other than he or Orra….was performing the procedure,” the brief says.
The board unanimously voted to suspend Stahl for 60 days without pay and to impose a one-year probation, during which he could be removed without cause. He was also required to complete a leadership training course.
In its response brief, the board concedes Stahl must be afforded due process under state law during a removal process and asks the court to modify that provision but retain the other sanctions.
Stahl may file a response by May 7 and either party may by May 12 file a request for oral arguments.


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