by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Sanibel Fire Rescue District Chief Matt Scott resigned Monday, Oct. 12, after an investigation into the issuance of a fraudulent Basic Life Support renewal card to his wife and Lee County Emergency Medical Technician Lisa Scott in August. He had been with the district for more than 30 years.
In his emailed resignation, Matt said he felt it was no longer in the best interest of the community that he continue to serve as fire chief. The Sanibel Fire Rescue District Board of Commissioners accepted his resignation in its Oct. 14 meeting and unanimously appointed Deputy Fire Chief William Briscoe as chief effective immediately.
The Commissioners – Jerry Muench, Bruce Cochrane and Richard McCurry – had placed Matt on administrative leave Sept. 23 pending the outcome of the investigation by the board’s law firm Lewis, Longman & Walker. Deputy Chief of Training Tim Barrett has also been placed on administrative leave for his role in the issuance of the forged BLS renewal card.
The investigation report by Lewis, Long & Walker Attorney Glenn Thomas states Lisa Scott “realized her BLS card was about to expire” and contacted her husband on Aug. 25 to obtain a renewal card, which was issued that same day by Barrett. Lisa sent it to her employer on Aug. 26, but several discrepancies led Lee County to commence an administrative review.
Lee County Director of Public Safety Ben Abes told Thomas several supervisors, including himself, “immediately noticed problems” with Lisa’s renewal card. Abes said the obvious issues were the renewal card was issued on the wrong training center eCard; it named an uncertified instructor; and there was no documentation of the class in the county’s system.
Lisa was informed of the review Sept. 4 and immediately placed on administrative leave. Three days later, she emailed a second eCard to Lee County EMS Administrative Specialist Terry Marichal. But during a fact-finding interview Sept. 9, Lisa admitted she never took the course or test to receive her renewal BLS card.
Barrett told Thomas that Matt said his wife needed her BLS card renewed immediately and “ordered” him to get a card issued. Barrett said he assumed Lisa would take the course, even though Matt never said she would and he never asked her directly. Barrett said he was later contacted by Matt about the wrong eCard and wanted him to issue an appropriate eCard.
Barrett also said he listed Briscoe as the instructor because he wanted to become a certified instructor and needed to participate in a certain number of training classes. Barrett planned for it to be Briscoe’s first training course, but never told him about it because Lisa never appeared to take the class. Barrett also admitted to filling out the paperwork, including the marks on the test answer sheet.
Thomas reported that Barrett was “adamant” he would not have issued the card if he knew Lisa was not going to take the course. Barrett described how Matt had “used intimidation tactics in the past when confronted” and indicated that was also a factor into his decision to issue the renewal card.
Matt denied having anything to do with Lisa obtaining a fraudulent BLS renewal card, when he was interviewed by Thomas. He said he did not know his wife never took the necessary course or test prior to her being placed on administrative leave. And he denied being involved in any attempts to create the appearance she took the course after being notified by the county about the issue with her card.
One of the conclusions reached by Thomas was that even if Matt first discovered his wife had not taken the BLS renewal class at the time of her being place on administrative leave Sept. 4, it meant he “simultaneously learned” Barrett had issued a fraudulent card – a serious and potentially criminal offense.
“Despite possessing this knowledge for several weeks prior to being placed on administrative leave, Chief Scott did not commence an investigation or appoint another supervisor to commence an investigation into Chief Barrett’s actions,” Thomas wrote in his report.
Lisa resigned from the Lee County EMS, after a 20-year career, and the Sanibel Fire Rescue Board agreed Briscoe will decide on the disciplinary action for Barrett, since part of his responsibilities as deputy chief is to handle employee matters.
Briscoe said he will go through the 12-page report by Thomas again and interview Barrett himself before making any decisions. He said disciplinary action can range from leave without pay to probation. He indicated it is unlikely Barrett, who has been with the department for more than 20 years, will be fired.
The Lee County EMS has referred the matter to the Department of Health for further investigation. Thomas said there could still be serious repercussions for the Sanibel Fire District as a result of this event.
“Upon learning that an employee had engaged in fraudulent activity related to District business, Chief Scott had a duty to immediately appoint an investigator,” said Thomas.