Md. union questions hiring of former EMS chief convicted of deer poaching
Christopher Biggs is working as an advanced life support training coordinator for the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute
By Teresa McMinn
CUMBERLAND, Md. — A former Allegany County emergency medical services chief, who received a vote of no confidence from a local union and was later sentenced to home incarceration for deer poaching in West Virginia, has been hired as an advanced life support training coordinator for the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute.
MFRI offered Christopher Biggs the position on Dec. 9, and he began working for the organization on Jan. 3.
Biggs refused a Cumberland Times-News request for an interview.
MFRI of the University of Maryland is the state's training and education system for all-hazard responses.
The institute develops and delivers programs to prepare agencies and individuals "to protect life, property and the environment," according to the organization's website.
MFRI is one of five state entities supported by the Maryland Emergency Medical System Operations Fund.
Biggs is one of two MFRI -assigned ALS coordinators based in College Park.
"The two ALS training coordinators have statewide positions," MFRI officials said via email. "Both coordinators could be called to teach throughout Maryland based on requests for training. At this time, our other ALS coordinator will maintain his role and continue to manage training requests in Allegany county."
Under his new job, Biggs "coordinates all aspects of the ALS program to include course assignments and materials, location, equipment and facilities," MFRI officials said. "He represents ALS at local and state emergency meetings and promotes MFRI's services. He also maintains ALS credentials."
His salary is $80,000 annually.
IAFF Local 1715 represents Fire and EMS providers from the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services and the city of Cumberland Fire Department.
In a statement from Local 1715's president Ken McKenzie, the union said it is disappointed in MFRI for the appointment of Biggs, and talked of "major concern" for all Maryland ALS providers.
"On November 15, 2021, Local 1715 voted 'no confidence' in Chris Biggs, who at the time was the EMS Chief of Allegany County Department of Emergency Services," McKenzie said.
"The vote was brought about after numerous attempts by the union to address issues with Biggs through ( Allegany County) officials," he said.
"During Chief Biggs' tenure, he fostered an atmosphere of hostility, nepotism, retaliation, and unethical behavior," McKenzie said. "Concerns regarding Biggs' competence and integrity for the job went unresolved for too long. This made the department's culture toxic and Biggs' performance negatively impacted employees' health, daily operations, and the quality of service provided in Allegany County."
The county launched an investigation into the complaints but never completed it, McKenzie said.
Following the union's 2021 vote, Allegany County officials and DES Director James Pyles supported Biggs and said he would not be disciplined.
"The Department of Human Resources based upon their investigation believes that these issues have been adequately investigated and addressed and that the concerns raised have been rectified," Pyles said at the time.
McKenzie in the recent statement said MFRI's hiring of Biggs "calls to question the amount of background checks they perform on potential new hires and as a state funded agency hiring someone who is, at the minimum guilty of violating the public trust in his former position, makes us question the future of many of our members' ALS careers."
According to MFRI, Biggs has more than 25 years' experience as an emergency services provider.
He has held numerous positions, including firefighter, paramedic and longtime MFRI instructor.
Additionally, Biggs completed coursework at George Washington University's Medical School Virginia Campus, Allegany College of Maryland and the Community College of Philadelphia.
Biggs' interview process "followed the standard University of Maryland competitive search and selection process through which a panel of personnel review credentials, interview candidates, evaluate applicants and make a hiring recommendation," MFRI officials said.
They would not disclose details regarding any pre-employment investigation of Biggs.
"We cannot comment on any specifics related to an individual employee's background check as this information is confidential," MFRI officials said.
"In general, background checks are conducted for all staff positions at UMD," they said.
"University Human Resources conducts an individualized assessment of information reported on background checks consistent with ( U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) guidelines and with our policy," MFRI officials said.
"According to the policy, consideration of criminal background check information should be guided by an assessment of the duties of the position and the totality of the circumstances," they said.
Under the policy, individuals required to undergo a criminal background check include "finalists" meaning candidates who meet minimum qualifications for a specific position at the university and have been extended a conditional offer of employment.
In January 2022, 223 charges involving at least 27 antlered bucks taken illegally in Mineral, Grant and Hampshire counties in West Virginia from mid-September to late December 2021 were filed against Biggs and seven other residents, all of Keyser, West Virginia.
On Dec. 2, Biggs received a suspended 20-day jail sentence as part of a plea deal in West Virginia's largest known deer poaching case that allowed him to serve the time on house arrest while wearing an ankle monitor.
Following the West Virginia charges, Biggs, who was appointed EMS chief of the Allegany County DES in 2019, was suspended from his job, county officials said at the time.
Two felony charges against Biggs — forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery — were dismissed April 8.
"I'm feeling like today is a small victory," Biggs said outside the Keyser courtroom at the time. "I think the judicial system got it right."
He was later charged with four misdemeanor counts.
A charge for having a loaded gun in a vehicle was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Biggs was ordered to pay roughly $900 in fines and court costs.
On Thursday, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources records obtained by the Times-News showed Biggs' hunting license was revoked beginning Dec. 2, 2022 through Dec. 2, 2024 for spotlighting, and he has "no active privileges."
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