It’s been about a year since ambulance service temporarily stopped in Windsor and a new Windsor Ambulance District Board of Directors was appointed, and it was reported during Tuesday’s meeting there is not enough evidence to prove any criminal activity caused the district’s financial problems.
Once the new WAD board was appointed in July 2015, it learned it was saddled with about $178,000 in tax debt to the IRS, plus tax debt to the state of Missouri, along with accruing interest. Shortly after being appointed, the board asked the Pettis County and Henry County sheriffs to look into the electronic records left behind by the previous board to see if any mismanagement or fraud could be proved.
Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond and Detective Sgt. Tollie Rowe and Henry County Chief Deputy Maj. Robert Hills attended Tuesday’s board meeting to discuss their findings. Both jurisdictions said there just isn’t enough evidence to justify probable cause for a prosecutor.
Pettis County seized laptops and hard drives from the former WAD building and analyzed them, along with assistance from the State Technical Assistance Team and the Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.
“(With the STAT Unit) we found online accounts, or at least references to online accounts, and ultimately found an additional account you all had beforehand that we didn’t know anything about,” Bond said. “In looking through the documents and files, there was a lot of backed up files but the reality was most of the transactions were done through the Cloud or Internet services; we didn’t have a lot of information to be able to go on in regards to that.
“… From our appearances, we could see it looked like there probably was not a lot of checks and balances, but we know that. Either the prior board was asleep at the wheel or was just allowing or assuming that the administration was doing things appropriately.”
Bond added that they found payments to a WAD board member, but noted that is allowed under state law. Pettis County Ambulance District Board Secretary Allan Rohrbach was in attendance and said state law allows a payment of up to $200 per month to a board member, and Bond said there’s no clear way to know if that was violated.
“I spent a lot of time looking at financial records. There may have been issues with billing and receiving, not getting paid, which may be one of the factors in why things ended up the way they did,” Rowe said. “… It seemed like it got so murky and convoluted that it would be difficult to sort it through to rise above probable cause.”
Once Pettis County closed its investigation, it was handed back over to Henry County, who had previously investigated WAD in 2011, which caused a three-year statute of limitations.
“We always felt our strongest case had to do with the license that was expired there for a period of time which we presented to our prosecutor back when the statute of limitations was still good and he just never took any action on it,” Hills said. “We also reported that to the state board that regulated licensing and it appeared they were going to take some action but there wasn’t anything reported back to us.”
Hills added that money paid to whomever held the expired license would have been fraudulent, but documentation from the previous board is few and far between, a problem that has plagued the new board since day one.
“The interviews that were done with a lot of past employees, those that were maybe supervisory, those that were interim directors, told us they didn’t feel money was taken directly, that maybe the money was misspent, that it should have been used here and was used over here,” Hills said.
“In talking with folks, for the last year they were there they just didn’t do a whole lot with collecting or billing or doing anything. Unfortunately I think the board that was in place at the time wasn’t doing a lot of oversight, wasn’t watching or looking for the loss margins, for whatever reason. We can only speculate because those minutes and other stuff, that doesn’t exist.
“Even if something criminal happened, I don’t believe there’s enough evidence that will present itself that a prosecutor will find probable cause to file a charge,” he concluded.
Rohrbach reported that PCAD’s Windsor site has run 267 calls since starting service in March, with about 27 calls in the last week alone. He added that they are starting to see a few transfer calls a day from Golden Valley Memorial Hospital. Two new ambulances will be delivered to the Windsor site soon and once they arrive the district will move into the newly-constructed building created to house the ambulances and to properly store medicine in a climate-controlled environment.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.