McDonald: BCEMS “Not A Done Deal”
by Shari Dovale
The restructuring of the Bonner County Emergency Medical Services (BCEMS) has been in the news quite a lot lately, mostly due to conflicting information being presented.
Beginning just before Christmas, BCEMS employees have been concerned for their jobs after the news was broken that Bonner County Commissioners were looking to hire a new nonprofit company to take over the county EMS service..
Conflict of Interest concerning the new interim director, Jeff Lindsey, was of concern to the public, however, transferring the management of BCEMS to a new entity based out of Boundary County without public hearings or giving notice to employees or the public is what drew the majority of comments.
Talking with Commissioner Dan McDonald on December 17, 2018, just 3 days after the news broke, he spent time explaining to us that the new entity “North Valley EMS” was a community-based nonprofit, yet no decisions had been made to turn BCEMS over to them officially. In other words, it was “Not A Done Deal”.
First let’s discuss: What is a nonprofit?
not established for the purpose of making a profit; not entered into for money: a nonprofit institution.
a nonprofit organization, institution, corporation, or other entity.
The funds acquired by nonprofit corporations must stay within the corporate accounts to pay for reasonable salaries, expenses, and the activities of the corporation.
This means that the nonprofit can use it’s money to pay it’s directors a large salary, if they so choose, or other uses to build their business. A good example of this would be Planned Parenthood. They are classified as a non-profit.
Nonprofit corporations usually receive tax-exempt status, as well.
Additionally, it means that they may not be subject to public transparency or Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA). Open meeting laws may not apply to them either.
When government agencies outsource basic services to third-party non-profit contractors, one consequence is that the public may lose its access to information about the service that the public would have retained, had a government agency carried out the service directly.
A concern that previously public information will become privatized and inaccessible to the public when a government agency moves to contract out services to third-party vendors arises whether the third-party vendor is a non-profit organization or a for-profit organization.
Commissioner McDonald has been the most vocal about this endeavor. First telling us that he asked for this assignment, as liaison for the BCEMS, then telling listeners on a local radio show recently that he has drawn the “short straw”. However this came to be, McDonald is now the Commissioner-in-charge of BCEMS.
Additionally, McDonald was very clear that these discussions were held during “executive session” under the guise of “hiring”.
The Commissioners are employing what is commonly known as legal loopholes, or ‘political double-speak’. In other words, hiring the interim director was a personnel matter, but planning the operations, with all of the details nearly ironed out by the time the news slipped out to the public, seemed to go far beyond hiring.
No one is legally allowed to discuss what is said in executive session, therefore, you cannot fact check whether or not they violated the rules.
They could be betting on the next horse in the Kentucky Derby, or planning on how to delete an entire department, and the public can not do anything about it.
It is a nice little Catch-22, and the Commissioners have it wrapped up tight with a neat little bow.
This may be a valid legal argument in court, but it doesn’t go far in credibility for transparency. It goes right along with the old adage of “Doing things right is not always the same as doing the right thing.”
If this seems a bit of a stretch, then maybe the commissioners should explain how they can plan the operational details of this possible upcoming contract, as McDonald has laid out in several interviews, and still call it hiring?
He has said, repeatedly, that this is “Not A Done Deal”. However, he did explain in the December 18th radio interview that North Valley EMS “is a new entity they just put together in anticipation that we might go this way.”
I guess the good folks at BOUNDARY VOLUNTEER AMBULANCE SERVICE INC, got lucky way back in September when they set up their new entity with the Idaho Secretary of State. How else would they have known enough about the operations (or was it hiring?) to start getting prepared for this possible contract?
The latest news for all of the BCEMS employees (that have been reassured that this is “Not A Done Deal”) are the letters that began going out prior to the public announcement of the changes coming, saying that “Bonner County Emergency Medical Services will be working under North Valley Ambulance”.
Word of these letters became public a couple of weeks ago. We were given this letter and have had it confirmed by multiple sources, though we have chosen to protect the privacy of this addressee. We also know of multiple applicants that have received similar letters.
On another radio interview, February 19th, McDonald heard a comment about these letters, specifically that the caller had received one in November 2018, and McDonald responded that no one was authorized to send out these letters.
Now we have even more conflicting statements. I guess it will be up to the public to sort it out as to what is believable. Is it a “Done Deal” or not?
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