April 29, 2015

Ambulance board talks confidence

By Chris Erickson

In an effort to bring the service up-to-speed, members of the Mercer County Ambulance put themselves through a long meeting this past Monday. Among the topics board members discussed were a recent employee survey and the board’s confidence in the ambulance service manager.
Among the information yielded from the survey included the following:
-76 percent of respondents felt the ambulance service provided quality service.
-38 percent were proud of the organization’s reputation in the community.
-33 percent had confidence in the leadership of the organization.
The board went through the survey line-by-line to speak on each particular question, although didn’t dwell on many. Later in the meeting the discussion did come back to the limited confidence in leadership when the board began speaking about their own confidence in the ambulance manager.
The topic had been added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting by Duane Scheurer, who said he felt the board should express the confidence to the positive or the negative. He noted that this should be done given recent feedback from volunteers, staff, community members and the manager herself. He made a motion of confidence for Angie Sayler, who was not present at the meeting. If the motion had received a second, board members would have voted “yay” to express confidence in her and continue her employment, or “nay” to express lack of confidence and terminate her employment.
Instead of a direct “second” to the motion, the board held a lengthy discussion about whether or not they felt comfortable moving forward at the time of the meeting. Some board members felt the vote should move forward if it was positive or negative. Others felt they didn’t have enough information to provide a yes or no vote at the time of the meeting.
At that point, Board President Rhonda Pfenning reported to the board on a conversation she’d had with a longtime ambulance staffer, who’d expressed severe concerns over the management of the service. Pfenning then went into detail expressing that staffer’s comments, which alleged favoritism, bridge-burning, micromanagement, disrespect and other bad behavior from the manager.
Board Treasurer Darrold Bertsch stated that at the last meeting held at the Beulah ambulance building, the manager had expressed innappropriate comments directly to the board members. He noted that if it happened so easily to board members it was easy to see that similar comments would be made to the service’s staff.
Pfenning had noted that after that meeting an employment counseling session had been conducted.
Board members Dave Czywczynski and Laura Bakken both stated that they’d like to dig into the survey information more before making any decision. They had both volunteered earlier in the meeting to compile a report of the survey’s data to better serve the board. Although they both stated that they understood where the board and staffers were coming from, making a decision on the manager’s employment status would likely be done more fairly at a later meeting.

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