Mass. officials suspend rescue squad president's EMT license
Department of Public Health officials state that Daniel McCall misrepresented his credentials to teach an EMT class
By Mark Sullivan
Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.
WEST BROOKFIELD, Mass. — Some here say it's time to call 911 on the West Brookfield Rescue Squad. The private ambulance company that serves this Central Massachusetts town of 3,700 has been mired in turmoil.
Controversy has centered on the company's president, Daniel McCall, who this summer has had his basic EMT license revoked for 90 days for misrepresenting his credentials to teach an EMT class, according to the state Department of Public Health.
It's not the first time Mr. McCall, 56, of Ware, has had his EMT license pulled: His certificate was suspended in 2015 under the "Deadbeat Dad" law for failure to pay child support, according to the DPH.
The current disciplinary action is the latest against Mr. McCall, whose tenure as president of the rescue squad and as an EMT in town has been tumultuous.
According to filings in Worcester District Court by members of the ambulance company's board who tried to oust him as president, Mr. McCall was suspended for a week without pay and his company spending privileges were revoked by the board in early May 2018 after he acknowledged misusing the company debit card to put a $400 down payment on a used car, among other unauthorized transactions.
Mr. McCall previously had been disciplined by the board in 2015 for dipping into petty cash without authorization. In April 2018 Mr. McCall had pressed the rescue squad's vice president, Diane Merriam, to co-sign an application for a $190,000 line of credit to the company, and she declined, according to the court filings.
On May 21, 2018, the rescue squad's board, citing misuse of funds and a pattern of retaliatory conduct against board members who had disciplined him, voted 5-1 to terminate Mr. McCall as president. But at a subsequent meeting of the entire squad, on June 19, 2018, the rank-and-file membership, loyal to Mr. McCall, nullified his firing by the board and instead ousted Ms. Merriam as vice president, according to court filings.
Ms. Merriam, joined by five other members of the West Brookfield Rescue Squad's board of directors, filed suit in Worcester Superior Court on July 2018 against the West Brookfield Rescue Squad Inc. and Mr. McCall, seeking a court injunction to uphold the board's termination of Mr. McCall and to restore Ms. Merriam to her position.
In February 2019, Judge James Gavin Reardon Jr. denied the request for a preliminary injunction, citing the "chaotic record of proceedings" from the previous May and June that he said left it unclear whether West Brookfield Rescue Squad bylaws had been violated. The judge also cited a May 24, 2018, letter by the rescue squad's counsel, former Worcester City Councilor Robert J. Hennigan Jr., questioning whether the board's vote to terminate Mr. McCall had been valid.
A wrongful-termination suit by Ms. Merriam against the West Brookfield Rescue Squad Inc. and Mr. McCall still moves forward in Worcester Superior Court.
Meantime, a separate wrongful-termination suit against the rescue squad and Mr. McCall has been filed in Suffolk Superior Court by former board member Melyssa Taylor of West Brookfield.
None of the board members who tried to oust Mr. McCall remains with the rescue squad, said Ms. Merriam, 63, of West Brookfield, who was a 13-year veteran of the ambulance company when she was forced out, and who estimates she has spent $11,000 of her own money on her legal challenge to date.
"We all wanted him fired," she said. "That's not happening now. He got rid of all the people (on the board) against him and filled the positions with new people."
Her attorney, David E. Ashworth of West Brookfield, said Mr. McCall runs the ambulance company as a "fiefdom."
Mr. McCall, contacted by the T&G, deferred to the rescue squad's attorney, Mr. Hennigan, for comment.
Mr. Hennigan, noting all counts in Ms. Merriam's lawsuit save the wrongful termination piece had been dismissed, said: "the decision of the Court speaks for itself, which in essence vindicates (Mr. McCall)."
The West Brookfield Rescue Squad is a private, not-for-profit company that since 1952 has provided ambulance service to residents of West Brookfield while not being formally affiliated with the town government. The company employs 18 EMTs and runs two trucks out of its headquarters at 18 West Main St., responding to nearly 800 calls a year, according to its website.
The rescue squad operates on an annual budget of about $350,000, much of that raised through direct billing of insurance companies, according to former treasurer Rebecca Dilboy. An annual community fundraising drive raises another $25,000 or so toward its support, she said.
Mr. McCall's current EMT license suspension was announced by the state Department of Public Health on May 14. The letter from DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel stated Mr. McCall's certification as an EMT was to be temporarily revoked for a minimum of 90 days.
Mr. McCall had been informed a year ago, on June 5, 2018, that the Office of Emergency Medical Services of the DPH intended to temporarily revoke his license. He appealed the sanction, but not the underlying facts on which the action was based, Administrative Magistrate Bonney Cashin wrote in a decision upholding the sanction.
Ms. Cashin wrote: "OEMS alleged that Mr. McCall held himself out to be an OEMS-approved instructor qualified to teach a 200-hour initial EMT training program to be offered in Ware, Massachusetts, through Holyoke Community College.
"He represented that he could obtain the necessary OEMS accreditation for the school and prepared advertisements for the program. Mr. McCall was not accredited by OEMS as an instructor, and he made false statements to Holyoke Community College and the public about his qualifications and to OEMS about his actions during its investigation."
The sanction required Mr. McCall to surrender his EMT certification card, complete a preapproved remedial course in ethics in emergency medical services, and file a written request to terminate the revocation with documentation of course completion.
The rescue squad's attorney, Mr. Hennigan, wrote via email: "The suspension recently issued by the Department of Public Health involves a personal matter and was not affiliated, nor did it involve, the (West Brookfield Rescue Squad) in any way.
"The suspension does not affect his active status as a member of the organization, nor his ability to perform his duties as President of the company under the Bylaws of the WBRS. The Board of Directors is aware of Mr. McCall's situation with DPH and fully supports him as a member and President of the WBRS."
Critics say Mr. McCall's license being pulled for lying about his credentials as an EMT instructor reflects what they see as a pattern of unaccountability on the part of the rescue squad's president.
Paul Lupacchino, former fire chief in West Brookfield, is a former president of the West Brookfield Rescue Squad, with which he was involved for 41 years. He offered his perspective on the current state of the rescue squad: "It's shameful, and it's criminal," he said.
Mr. Lupacchino said as fire chief in 2016 he had fired Mr. McCall as a firefighter after multiple complaints that Mr. McCall, using a department-issued red light on his personal vehicle, had been speeding through a neighborhood full of small children while responding to ambulance calls.
The former chief said he brokered a conversation between a homeowner who had raised the concerns and Mr. McCall. "When the resident went to shake his hand, Dan looked him in the eye and said, 'You see me coming, get the (expletive) out of my way,' " he said. Mr. Lupacchino said he promptly dismissed Mr. McCall from his job on the Fire Department.
Mr. Lupacchino said town firefighters traditionally ran the rescue squad as volunteers, but now there is little communication between the Fire Department and the ambulance company. The former chief said Mr. McCall has recruited new members for the rescue squad from an EMT training course in which he assisted, and these younger EMTs, loyal to Mr. McCall, now sit on the board and have supported his leadership of the squad.
He said the town has maintained a hands-off relationship with the ambulance company. "I think a lot of people are afraid to touch it because of the sanctity of the West Brookfield Rescue Squad," Mr. Lupacchino said. "Where else do you have a free ambulance service? It doesn't cost the town a dime."
Said Ms. Dilboy, the former treasurer who was among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit: "If they get rid of that squad, the town will have to pay."
This month, as the rescue squad prepares to launch its annual subscription drive, it is unclear how much of the money raised will go to cover legal costs and increased insurance premiums generated by the ongoing legal battle in which Mr. McCall has involved the squad.
West Brookfield resident Tim Nolan said he has heard more was spent on legal fees last year than the $28,000 that citizens contributed to the subscription drive. "Come August when they start their fundraiser, people need to know what's going on," he said.
©2019 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.