As we are aware, the open records law requiring timely release of public records, and the “Sunshine Law” requiring open public meetings with advance notification and citizen input, were legislated with the obvious purpose of ensuring transparency of the citizens’ business — a concept that dates to large gatherings on the hillside outside Athens in ancient Greece.
Lloyd Engle has attended the last several Perry Fiscal Court meetings with questions regarding the conduct and administration of the Perry County Ambulance Authority, only to be refused answers and advised to come to the ambulance service board meetings. Persistence pays. Judge Denny Ray Noble invited Engle to Monday’s night’s meeting of the board. Assuming he was being invited to air his concerns, Engle prepared questions and concerns, attended the meeting, and waited his turn only to be refused a chance to speak, and ultimately was evicted from the meeting by county police. At that time he was being advised by Judge Noble to submit a request to speak at the next meeting in 90 days.
Judge Noble has fallen victim to a syndrome common to long-term officeholders and others who come to view the workplace or office as their personal domain. Their personal view becomes that the rules in place to protect the public interest no longer apply to them. Judge Noble sat in on the adoption of the ambulance service by-laws which require quarterly board meetings. Recently released records reflect a total of four board meetings in the last three years, and this last one highly suspect as an effort to postpone Engle’s questions for 90 days.
Engle’s questions revolve largely around salary and benefits being paid Assistant Director Wanda Noble. According to recently-released records, Noble’s annual salary and bonus of $57,291 exactly matches the salary paid director Matthew Couch, who, in addition to director’s duty, is EMT, paramedic, medi-vac flight-certified, and actually performs those duties. Noble holds none of the above certifications, therefore no reason to claim “on call” status and enjoys a four-day work-week.
Additionally, Noble is provided with the previously reported $32,000 Tahoe. Leased automobiles routinely are accorded a $1,000 per month tax credit. One reputable insurance company quoted full coverage on a new Tahoe at a reduced cost of $1,040 annually. Fuel expenses estimated conservatively at $4,000 a year bring total annual compensation to $64,331. Judge Noble presides over the ambulance service board. When employee bonuses were discontinued in favor of an hourly wage-increase ranging from $1 to $1.50, Noble and Couch were allowed to retain their $5,208 annual bonuses.
Asked personally why he allows the continued verbal abuse of the ambulance service workforce, he declared it necessary to get them to work, disregarding the fact that these are the people who show up at any hour, in our homes, on the highways, in our hospitals, in uniform to administer CPR, stop the bleeding, strap us to gurneys, and drive 100 MPH, risking their own lives in efforts to save ours.
The minimum annual income for an EMT’s is $27,000; minimum for paramedics is $41,000. These are the people who must be verbally abused to “get them to work.”
On a related issue, as chief executive officer, Judge Noble could have exercised authority to bring about more efficient operation of the sheriff’s department (relative to law enforcement and operating costs). Instead, he elected to commission his own county police department, in effect creating duplication of services at our expense while delegating a force to be at his call and from appearance, to be his personal bodyguard force.
Young men who are my personal friends, who must work to take care of their families. Young men looking to him for leadership should not be put in the uncomfortable position of being ordered to escort their senior citizen friends to the door because a judge refuses to answer questions about his own self-serving, disorderly behavior.
In closing, as great as are our losses as a result of the Judge’s misguided, stuck-in-midlife-crisis mentality, the Judge himself is the biggest loser. The biggest fool is the fool who fools himself, all the while presuming the rest of us also to be fooled. Arrogance is a human flaw that grows with each passing episode of “dodging the bullet.” Only at some point in the future, when the dithering, slithering, high-flying, adrenalin-laced fiasco is over and he necessarily comes face to face with grim reality, will he realize that, far from the greatest Perry judge-executive ever, in areas that matter the most, he has been a tragic failure. The grandkids will grow up to know the truth, along with the rest of us, about the old man on the porch with the shaky hands and the cracked voice. If he is still capable of the emotion of shame, that will truly be a sad day.
Eddie N. Campbell,
Lost Creek, Ky.