(06/16/2001)
By Bob Weaver

Don Smith, the Rescue Chief of the Roane County Emergency Squad, was placed on administrative leave last Monday, after he had tendered his resignation for June 30th. Smith said three other squad members, his supporters, were also placed on administrative leave.

"The squad is moving ahead and we have some resolution. Volunteerism has doubled," according to Executive Director Dr. Aaron Cottle, who spoke to The Herald on Friday. "Smith's resignation was accepted unanimously by the board," which has ten members, he said.

Cottle said the West Virginia EMS Technical Support Network has been given a 90-day contract to oversee the operations of the squad and assist in the recruitment of personnel.

Referring to his leaving the squad, Smith said "They have the final decision. They have spoken, "referring to the board. He said his discontent was loss of control over the squad's day-to-day operation. Dr. Cottle, who is President of the year-old board, was also appointed Executive Director of the organization in April.

"The problems have to do with his (Smith's) management and trying to bring better oversight over the operation," said Cottle.

"I am disappointed they are changing the locks on the radio tower equipment, which I have generally maintained," Smith said. "I can't believe such efforts are necessary." Smith said he was disappointed the board was hedging on his willingness to continue running with the squad as a medic.

Cottle says the changing of the locks was "a 911 decision" and the members of the squad will determine if Smith continues to function with the organization as a medic.

"I have been a friend of Dr. Cottle's for several years," said Smith, who stated his comments regarding the physician's sex case was misrepresented by a Parkersburg News reporter.

Smith recalled an earlier controversy in his 21 year career in EMS. "Many people still think I did something wrong, when I did not. Two different audits revealed minuscule problems, and when a complaint was filed with the FBI, all the records were confiscated. The FBI found no wrongdoing," he said. Sources said the FBI did not vindicate Smith, but procedurally has not responded.

A board member, who declined to identify himself, said Smith was found guilty of some "double billing" which allegedly benefited him.

At last weeks meeting the Roane Commission voted Smith out of his County Coroner job, to later discover it was not in their authority to do so.

Smith said he has always put professional service first, particularly when it came to the delivery of care.

"It's over," continued Cottle. "We're going to provide good service to the people of Roane County. Things are going well and most squad members are pleased."

(SEE Herald story on 6/8/01)


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