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Paramedics return to work two years later

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published May 26, 2007


CLEARWATER - Two years after they were fired from their jobs, and months after a federal arbitrator ordered they be reinstated, Clearwater paramedics Trevor Murray and Mike Jones are reporting back to work.

Jones starts work today, and Murray will begin Tuesday. The men's reinstatements come after two months of negotiations with the city's fire department over reobtaining their county paramedic certification and their concerns about retaliation.

"When you have these kind of situations, we are committed to getting them reincorporated into the workplace as quickly as we can, " said Joe Roseto, Clearwater's human resources director. "They have every right to believe that they will be treated appropriately and fairly."

Both Murray and Jones will rejoin the department as firefighters, a step below their previous jobs because of a problem with certification. However, they will continue to be paid as paramedics for the first year, ideally giving them time to reclaim their certification and work as paramedics. Their salaries weren't available Friday.

The city will pay Murray about $129, 000 in back wages. Jones is due $122, 000, the city says. Pension contributions, other wages and taxes will be deducted from the amount.

"I'm glad to be back at work and to work for the citizens of Clearwater, " Murray said Friday. "God is good all the time."

Jones, too, is pleased.

"The city had a really smooth process ready for us today, " Jones said of Friday's one-day transition session that included a physical and reissuing uniforms. "I'm glad to be back at work."

In separate rulings, a federal arbitrator ruled that the city wrongly fired the two paramedics in May 2005 after they failed to answer the 911 call in March of woman who chronically called and falsely claimed rape. Clearwater police arrived on the scene that day and took the woman for a mental evaluation.

In addition to the firings, that incident led the county's medical director Dr. Laurie Romig to revoke their county paramedic certification. Both men retain their state paramedic certification, but Romig has not budged on reissuing their county certification.

Under the agreement negotiated with the city fire department, if the medical director does not reinstate the certification in a year, Murray and Jones will be demoted to firefighters.

The city has agreed to allow Murray and Jones to attend continuing medical education classes at the city's expense for a year, though they will have to take them somewhere other than from the county Emergency Management System or at St. Petersburg College because they lack the county certification.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.