Paramedic: 'I didn't deserve to be fired'
He admits to a mistake in not responding to a 911 call, but says his good record should outweigh his lapse in judgment.
By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published July 25, 2006
CLEARWATER - Fired Clearwater paramedic Mike Jones acknowledges he might have made a mistake, but he says that shouldn't cost him his job.
Jones admits he and a colleague may have used poor judgment when they didn't respond to a 911 call from a woman who had falsely claimed rape many times.
But Jones, now a paramedic with the Zephyrhills Fire Department, said Tuesday during a hearing to get his job back that he had a stellar record during his six years with Clearwater's Fire Department, and that record should outweigh his lapse in judgment.
"I didn't deserve to be fired," Jones, 38, said during the daylong hearing.
Along with paramedic Trevor Murray, Jones was fired May 12, 2005, after the city determined their decision not to respond to a 911 call was unacceptable, no matter the circumstances. Both Jones and Murray filed a grievance against the city and are seeking reinstatement as paramedics. Murray's hearing was held in May with a decision pending.
The trouble began about 5:30 a.m. March 26, 2005. That's when a woman dialed 911 claiming to have been raped. The woman had made the claim several times, even saying that several high-level government officials, including the president, had been involved.
According to testimony, both the Fire Department and the Clearwater police were familiar with the woman.
On Tuesday, Jones' lawyer, Paul A. Donnelly, tried to establish that Jones was not the one who made the decision to not take the call.
Because Murray was the lead paramedic and the driver, he was the one who made the decision, Donnelly said. Murray's voice can be heard on a tape talking to 911 dispatchers.
Donnelly also said that while the two paramedics didn't leave the station, they did respond to the call and asked police to notify them if any further assistance was needed.
But Greg Hearing, the attorney representing the city, said Jones had an obligation to respond to the 911 call. And if there was a problem, he also had an obligation to notify his supervisors in the chain of command, which didn't happen.
"They decided that this caller was not worthy of their call," Hearing said.
On the morning in question, Murray asked a police officer responding to the call to let them know if medical assistance was needed. The police took the woman to a local mental hospital for treatment.
As a result of not answering the call, Murray and Jones were fired and lost their paramedics' licenses indefinitely in Pinellas County.
Though he now works in Zephyrhills, Jones said as a result of losing his Pinellas paramedic's license, he was not allowed to work his part-time job as a medic at the Pinellas County Jail.
Among Tuesday's four witnesses was Clearwater fire Chief Jamie Geer, who answered questions about the circumstances leading to the firing. Geer said he stands by his recommendation on the firing and said it would be difficult to hire Jones back.
The hearing will be completed Friday when Jones will likely take the stand in his defense. A decision could be made about three months after that.
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified July 24, 2006, 20:42:25]
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