Md. county officials support EMS chief union wants ousted

County Commission President Jake Shade said he is open to receiving additional details about complaints regarding Christopher Biggs


Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News, Md.

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Allegany County officials are standing behind their Emergency Medical Services Chief Christopher Biggs while union leaders vow to provide additional support for their claims that Biggs has violated the EMS department's trust.

A controversy erupted this week when numerous emergency services employees made a vote of no confidence toward Biggs, who has run the department for the last two years. After taking a poll where 85% of the staff voted to support the complaint, the information was formulated into a letter. The complaints included: hostile work environment, nepotism, repeated violation of Weingarten rights, weaponization of QA information, questionable ethics, policies implemented unfairly, and derogatory comments made about employees in front of others.

The letter said that the issues have caused low morale in the department.

However, the letter, which was sent to Allegany County government on Nov. 16, was leaked to the Times-News this week before county officials could complete an assessment of the charges.

Ken McKenzie, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1715, addressed the controversy at Thursday's regular public meeting of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners.

McKenzie represents 36 City of Cumberland and 38 county EMS employees.

McKenzie said the no-confidence vote was taken on Nov. 15 and the subsequent letter sent to Allegany County on Nov. 16. McKenzie said 85% of the 38 county EMS employees were polled and signed off on the no-confidence vote.

"We are not trouble makers or disgruntled employees, we have dedicated our lives to Allegany County with overwhelming concerns for our citizens and co-workers," McKenzie said reading from the letter.

McKenzie said that Biggs' actions are troubling, especially given that two members of Allegany County EMS leadership were terminated in January 2019 for their conduct.

"You are all aware of the past," said McKenzie. "The county doesn't have the best track record when it comes to leadership of EMS. Unfortunately we feel you are going down the same path."

Lee Beeman, county attorney, said that those two individuals were terminated within 72 hours of learning about their conduct. "When allegations are made, we make investigations," he said.

Beeman was asked why the letter was leaked to the Times-News. McKenzie said a former EMS employee who had access to the letter leaked it to the paper.

Beeman said a look at the matter has concluded Biggs will not be disciplined and that, "We consider it a closed matter."

Jake Shade, county commission president said, "If there is additional supporting information we'll be happy to look at it. I'm sure if someone came to you and asked for one of your employees to be fired, you all would view it separately. I didn't appreciate when it's stuck in the newspaper, but if there's further things beyond this please let us know. We are here for the good of the county wherever that may lead."

McKenzie told the Times-News after the meeting, "Commissioner Shade has tasked the union to provide additional details to support our claim. In an effort to work with the county and to not make this a bigger black eye on EMS ... we will provide that information to the commissioners and give them additional time and hopefully by the next meeting we can revisit this matter."

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(c)2021 the Cumberland Times News 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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