Texas EMS files lawsuit amidst heated conflict with emergency service district
Cypress Creek EMS officials say the suit is meant to stop Harris County Emergency Service District No. 1 from defunding the ambulance service before its contract ends
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Tensions between Cypress Creek EMS and Harris County Emergency Service District No. 11 flared up again as the former filed a lawsuit against the latter and threats of violence were made in a public meeting.
During an ESD meeting last month, commissioner Robert Pinard criticized an email by CCEMS CEO Wren Nealy alleging that Pinard threatened people’s jobs while visiting a CCEMS location with his family, according to Pinard who invited Nealy to “settle this like men.”
“I have not threatened anybody with their job. I have not gone and been a bully to anybody. So, you have a choice: you need to apologize for insulting my wife, my son and me for making up those lies, or we need to step outside and settle this like men,” Pinard said.
The lawsuit comes after ESD No. 11 voted last month to terminate their contract with CCEMS, giving 360 days’ notice, and demanded CCEMS pay health insurance claims in full for certain employees or be denied 70 percent of their funding, according to Nealy.
An Oct. 11 ESD news release states: “In the lawsuit, CCEMS complains about recent attempts by the District to encourage CCEMS to pay old employee health insurance claims the District feels should already have been paid. CCEMS’ lawsuit includes a request for a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the District from withholding payment to CCEMS if CCEMS failed to pay certain CCEMS employee health insurance claims.”
Concerning an ongoing audit of CCEMS, which began before CCEMS had their contract terminated, Nealy said ESD No. 11 is withholding 30 percent of funding for CCEMS until additional information they requested is provided, potentially allowing ESD No.11 to stop contributing to CCEMS financially until their contract ends next year.
“The insurance claim issue is an impossible ask on their part,” Nealy said. “There’s no way we could legally comply with that for several reasons. We have a contract with a third-party administrator to manage those claims and negotiate payments and settlements. We can’t interfere with the terms of that contract.”
Nealy said the suit is meant to stop ESD No. 11 from potentially defunding CCEMS and affecting services until their contract with the service district ends in September 2021.
“We’re an independent contractor and they’re interfering with our ability to administer our employee health benefit plan,” Nealy said. “What we’re seeking in court, the purpose, is to have the court force them to pay the contract out like they’re supposed to. Pay the set, approved, budgeted amount. They approved the budget.”
ESD No. 11’s legal representation, Regina Adams with Radcliff Bobbit Adams Polley PLLC, issued a statement regarding the suit.
“Unfortunately, on (Wednesday, Sept. 30) CCEMS filed suit against HCESD 11 (the ‘District’),” she said in the statement. “CCEMS lost its request for emergency relief in a hearing held Wednesday afternoon, but the suit remains pending. Because the District does not comment on matters related to pending litigation, we have no further comment at this time.”
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