Judge considers injunction

By Alison James

alison.james@fct.wpengine.com

 

In a hearing before Judge Terry Dempsey Sept. 18, attorneys for the cities of Russellville and Red Bay and Franklin County and the attorney for Elzie Malone and Pleasant Bay Ambulance Service brought witness testimony in the matter of Pleasant Bay’s continued operation in the county and cities, without city licenses and without being the sole provider for the county – for Dempsey to consider a request for an injunction to stop such operation.

Malone took the stand first and was questioned by City of Russellville attorney Danny McDowell about his licensure and about ambulance inspection.

“The bottom line is, you have never had (your ambulances) inspected, and you don’t have a license, right?” McDowell said. Malone maintained that he did not have a city license because the city won’t give him one, and he has not had his ambulances inspected because he has never been asked.

Testimony addressed multiple angles of the ongoing conflict between Pleasant Bay and the cities of Red Bay and Russellville and Franklin County – whether Malone’s state license permits him to operate in the county; what the ambulance inspection standards are and who bears the responsibility for initiating an ambulance inspection; and the bid process and selection for Franklin County’s sole ambulance provider.

“Under oath now, if Elzie and I come over there, we can buy a license from you for ambulance service, can we?” attorney Billy Underwood for Elzie Malone asked Bill Fuller, who is in charge of city licensing, on the stand.

Fuller said he guessed so but said he wasn’t sure. “I don’t know how the ordinance reads,” Fuller said.

Underwood continued to question Fuller about practices for granting a business license and whether Fuller would issue Malone a license.

“I’m going to object to this line of questioning,” McDowell interjected. “Mr. Underwood and Mr. Malone are fully aware that the ordinance says you have to have a contract with the county commission in order to get a license. I’m not sure if Mr. Fuller is aware of that particular aspect of the ordinance, but as the city attorney, I am advising him of that now.”

The EMS Committee of Franklin County was charged with developing guidelines for a county-wide ambulance service, which would be applied to any city that opted in, EMS committee member Roy Gober testified. Gober was subsequently questioned about the bid process, the pre-bid conference and the circumstances surrounding the selection of Shoals Ambulance to receive the bid.

Additionally, Underwood brought up a 1999 letter in which Franklin County attorney Roger Bedford indicates the county cannot regulate private ambulance service, which will be further addressed when the hearing continues Oct. 6. Bedford said times and circumstances have changed since he made that statement.

Underwood also drew the contrast between the existence of an exclusive 9-1-1 ambulance, which he said could indeed be the situation, and a private ambulance service – which Malone is currently prohibited from operating.

“You cannot keep private ambulances from doing private calls, can you?” Underwood asked.

McDowell responded, “Our position is simple: in order for an ambulance service to do business in the city of Russellville, it has to be licensed. Period … And under that ordinance, in order to be licensed, you have to be the contracted service of the Franklin County Commission. It is an exclusive franchise.”

The hearing will continue Oct. 6, with each side bringing an expert witness to support its position.

Malone turned himself in to the Russellville Police Department following the hearing. “Come on Elzie, let’s go get arrested,” Underwood said cheerily as he accompanied Malone into the police department. Malone was not arrested but answered the summons, charged with illegally operating without a business license.

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