Salacious lawsuit, morale issues prompt change at Oldham County EMS

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By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

A salacious lawsuit, a series of financial mistakes and past improprieties continue to haunt Oldham County EMS as morale deteriorates.

Earlier this month, board members of the Oldham County Ambulance Taxing Dsitrict asked EMS director Ron Wilder to resign. The next day, Judge-Executive David Voegele asked board chair, David W. Thompson, a Middletown firefighter, to resign.

Oldham County EMS veteran Stuart Crawford will serve as acting director while officials search for a permanent replacement.

Changes in leadership come on the heels of a federal sexual harassment lawsuit settled in favor of Oldham County EMS last month.

In June 2008, Oldham County EMS hired Wilder to replace a director whose private life became public via the Internet, and led to the sexual harassment suit against the agency.

Five months earlier, then-director Lance Vincent resigned after 65 EMS employees and board members received copies of his sexually explicit e-mail conversations with a married co-worker, Kristina Frederick.

Members of Oldham County Fiscal Court received Priority Mail packages containing printouts of the conversation – and a printout of the state’s sexual harassment policy – from an anonymous sender.

A cover letter indicated that the sender feared retaliation from Vincent.

Two months later, Oldham County EMS fired Frederick as a result of inappropriate conduct and violation of the company’s sexual harassment policy.

Frederick filed suit in August 2008, claiming she earned a promotion after having sex with Vincent and was subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct that created a hostile work environment.

Attorneys garnered more than 20 depositions – many from EMS employees – to prove whether Frederick had been sexually harassed.

Employees described a sexually charged atmosphere at Oldham County EMS.

As the lawsuit came to trial earlier this year, attorneys for Oldham County EMS argued that the e-mails between Frederick and Vincent, in which they professed their love for one another, show their relationship was romantic and consensual, and her promotion was based on merit.

Voegele told The Oldham Era that depositions and trial coverage have been constant reminders of past improprieties and continue to dampen the spirit of EMS employees.

The agency has also struggled with deteriorating morale due to recent personnel issues and the dismissal of several employees for various reasons unrelated to the suit, he said.

Voegele said he first learned of problems at Oldham County EMS nearly 18 months ago as he campaigned for judge-executive and more than a dozen employees confided in him about morale and poor leadership.

Shortly after Voegele assumed his post as judge-executive, he appointed the county’s CFO, Stan Clark, to fine-tune the finances and management practices of Oldham County EMS.

As a result of Clark’s findings, Voegele has delayed plans to build a $1.5 million EMS station in Crestwood.

And although Wilder has no connection to the lawsuit, Voegele said it’s time for new leadership in order to clean the slate.

EMS now has 78 employees, and Wilder, who also serves as director of Anchorage EMS, lacked sufficient time to give adequate attention to both agencies, Voegele said.

Thompson and other individuals had been dismissed from the suit early on.

Voegele said it was a tough decision to ask Thompson to resign, but he needs the board to be more diligent in its oversight.

Wilder will continue his work on a computer project related to a homeland security grant, Voegele said.

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