Commissioners sack Bonner County EMS chief

Wakeley intends to take legal action

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SANDPOINT — Rob Wakeley is no longer Bonner County’s Emergency Medical Services chief.

Wakeley was relieved of his post on Thursday, but county officials are euphemistically terming the firing as a “separation.”

Bonner County Commission Chairman Cary Kelly was unresponsive to a request for comment.

The firing comes more than a month after he was placed on administrative leaving pending a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.

Commissioners have declined to specify what prompted Wakeley’s suspension, although there have been reports that Wakeley has been cautioned about careless driving. Wakeley’s interaction with the board on March 3 has also been cited as a contributing factor to his suspension.

Wakeley went before the commission to have a contract with the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare for a community para-medicine program renewed. The contract paid the county $20,000 to cover labor costs for a preventative-care program for residents diagnosed with hypertension and high blood pressure.

The commission balked at signing the contract because it listed the name of the county’s former liability insurance provider, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Daily Bee under a public records request.

Commissioner Mike Nielsen suggested postponing approval until the current provider could review the contract.

“I just would encourage you that this is just an administrative matter,” said Wakeley. “I would encourage you to still sign the contract.”

Wakeley added that the contract was already in effect because it was belatedly sent to him by the state. Nielsen noted that contracts have to come before the board before they’re entered into.

There appears to be some mild tension during the eight-minute interaction, but no rancor.

However, Wakeley’s encouragement to sign the contract was apparently regarded as insubordination. All three commissioners have military and law-enforcement backgrounds.

Wakeley declined to comment on his dismissal on the advice of his legal counsel, Hayden attorney Larry Beck.

In a written statement on his client’s behalf, Beck said a critical component of constitutionally adequate hearing is that it be presided over by neutral and impartial decision makers.

“Sadly, Mr. Wakeley was not afforded that right. For over a year now, the commissioners have tried to terminate Mr. Wakeley’s employment in spite of the fact that Mr. Wakeley has helped turn Bonner County EMS into a widely respected agency of the county,” Beck said.

Beck said commissioners advised Wakeley during a meeting last October that he was ill-suited to be EMS. Kelly allegedly recommended that Wakeley resign and Nielsen allegedly told Wakeley he mistrusted him and pointed out that Wakeley supported his political opponent in the commission election.

Beck added that witnesses testified to Wakeley’s excellent leadership and strict adherence to policies and procedures, while the county called no opposing witnesses that would have helped inform a decision to fire him.

“Mister Wakeley will pursue legal action in court and seek to enforce his constitutional rights, and thereby compel the commissioners to provide all county with due process of law prior to terminating their employment,” Beck said in the statement.

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