Decision could lead to ambulance contract

By Times Staff Writer
Published May 19, 2005

TAMPA - Frank Griswold III, whose rejected application for an ambulance business in 1996 touched off a Tampa political scandal, got another opportunity Wednesday.

Griswold, 54, hopes Wednesday's decision by the Hillsborough County Commission will lead to a contract with the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. Griswold's company, Med Evac, would transport seriously ill patients between there and other medical facilities. Griswold's authorization to run an ambulance service expires in six months. He sought to exempt the air-ambulance and VA provisions from that, but commissioners balked. They said the question should be reviewed by the Emergency Medical Planning Council.

For Griswold, a retired Army major who had worked with military ambulances and hospitals, the decision was a small consolation prize in a nine-year struggle for a piece of Hillsborough's lucrative private ambulance business.

In 1996, the county's Public Transportation Commission rejected Griswold's first application on a motion by member Ronnie Mason, who chaired the Tampa City Council at the time. Soon afterward, Mason resigned from the transport panel and submitted a similar application, which was approved. Two years later, Mason and a partner were indicted on charges of extorting the support for their permits from a would-be competitor. Prosecutors dropped the charges shortly before a trial was to begin in 2000.

Griswold, meanwhile, pursued an antitrust suit against all parties. They reached a confidential settlement in 2001. Soon Griswold won licenses to operate six ambulances. But his company filed for bankruptcy 11/2 years ago, and recently filed another antitrust suit, accusing county regulators and competing ambulance companies of plotting to put Griswold out of business. That suit is pending.