(06/08/2001)
The Rescue Chief of the Roane County Emergency Squad is saying his June 30th resignation has been prompted in part by Dr. Aaron Cottle's past record as a sex offender. "His past makes some uncomfortable...some in the community are upset," said Don Smith, who has headed the squad for nineteen years.

Smith told reporters earlier the conflict was essentially over the management of the squad, after the Board appointed Cottle Executive Director. Cottle is also President of the ten person Board.

Smith is contending his day-to-day duties operating the emergency service have been taken away by Cottle's appointment. "In the by-laws, the Chief has the responsibility for the operations," he said.

Cottle, whose medical license has been suspended since his 1989 conviction of sexually abusing three females, ages six to twelve, says concerns over his conviction are irrelevant to the situation.

He contends the Board has concerns over the management of the squads operation, and he is trying to be a productive citizen and give back to the community.

Some area TV stations and newspapers have been running file footage and material of Cottle's abuse case. He served one and one-half years in a correctional facility and was given one year probation, in addition to losing his license.

Cottle was once recognized as the communities outstanding citizen, donating thousands of hours to local projects, and was a former Fire Chief of the Spencer-Roane Volunteer Fire Department.

Smith was embroiled in an earlier controversy after some squad members prompted an FBI investigation into his mishandling of funds. No charges were brought.

About one year ago the control of the Roane County Emergency Squad was "about to be turned over" to the Roane County Commission, after which the Board re-grouped and expanded its authority. A bitter conflict resulted between the Commission and Emergency Medical Services, particularly after the Commission attempted to contract with a private ambulance concern to cover the county.

Area newspapers are carrying quotes from squad members who have resigned in support of Smith, some claiming Cottle makes them uncomfortable. Misty Jones, a volunteer, says Cottle pats female employees and volunteers on the head and calls them "pumpkin" and "princess." Cottle said his use of such terms were not meant with any sexual connotation.

Smith is widely recognized in the area for his skill, knowledge and dedication to emergency medical services. He says the Roane County EMS is one of the highest rated squads in the state.


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