Effingham Co. (ECWd) -
Tyranny - cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control.
By Neiman's usurping of his authority, we refer to courtroom arguments from the State's Attorney who stated the board chairman directed him to pursue this litigation, however, the Chairman has no authority independent of board action.
A local ambulance service, Lakeside EMS LLC, has been providing patient care through a process referred to as patient transfers. These are typically calls generated outside the state-controlled 911 system. The County filed suit against this provider and attempted to have the Court issue a Temporary Restraining Order at an August 23rd, 2018 hearing.
In June of 2017 we published this article pertaining to the Ambulance contract for Effingham County which we knew was going to come back to bite the county sooner or later. This contract was literally handed to a local company, Abbott, of which Joe Thies, a cousin to County Board Chairman Jim Niemann, was employed in a supervisory role.
During the time leading up to this no-bid, no-RFP contract being awarded, we attended several county board meetings to express our concerns as to how they were moving forward with a contract directly affecting the lives of people in Effingham County. We were not alone, as many other locally operating Emergency personnel voiced their displeasure with the process and decision made by the County Board. All raised the warning flag of concern, but their voices were ignored.
Chairman Neiman told us the Ambulance contract went through a vetting process, however, the State's Attorney claimed no vetting took place. We covered it in this article and it was clear someone was not being honest.
As we attempted to uncover the truth, we ran into several roadblocks. One, in particular, were payments to the Attorney handling contract matters between the County and those contracted with the County. We are still in litigation for those records as the County has become obstructionist to the truth.
Fast forward 14 months and we find Niemann and State's Attorney Kibler are following the path of tyranny. It is clear, they are using the power of their positions to strong arm a local business because they do not agree with their marketing strategy.
The County Ambulance Ordinance points to "Emergency Ambulance Service" but does not define that term. During the recent attempt by the County to strong arm a local business, the court raised the question as to the definition of Emergency ambulance service. In fact, the judge stated:
"And then is it the definition of emergency ambulance service that the County uses in its ordinance that controls or is that term, which apparently is undefined by statute, does it bear some other type of meaning or definition?"
What is defined by statute is the term Emergency. In fact, the definition is within the very statute pertaining to 911 calls.
"emergency" means a situation in which property or human life is in jeopardy and the prompt notification of the public safety agency is essential."
That "prompt" notification is by use of the number "911". More importantly, that same set of statutes on the Emergency Telephone System goes on to mandate a separate number for non-emergency calls. It is clear the state has recognized that emergency calls are those that are generated by a call to 911 and non-emergency are those that are handled by a separate phone number. That distinction is one we have discussed with officials prior to the ordinance the county passed and the contract they entered into with Abbott. They ignored our input at every turn.
The attorney, Charles L. Philbrick, defending Lakeside EMS, stated in court that the ordinance is being applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.
"Now... So it's vague because there is no criteria, but also we know not only on its face, but also in terms of how it's being applied, that it is being applied in a arbitrary and discriminatory manner."
We agree the actions by the county are arbitrary and discriminatory.
This belief is based on the crystal clear statements from the State's Attorney during the TRO hearing. The County Chairman directed State's Attorney to take legal action against a local business, even though there are 22 other ambulance businesses operating in the County and that action was because of their marketing.
State's Attorney Brian Kibler to the Court
- "So before Court, you know, I was directed to do this by the County Board chairman. I ultimately go, well what was the big issue that really caused this to be pushed?"
- "But what really got the County Board worked up was the fact that there was essentially a gorilla marketing type campaign where Lakeside was leaving their literature all over the hospital."
- "That set them apart from everyone else. That these guys were aggressively marketing the actual patients who were in the hospital, unlike the other medical ambulance providers."
Judge to State's Attorney :
- "What significance is there to that?"
State's Attorney Brian Kibler to the Court
- "Well in the sense of when one is--they were essentially blatantly trying to advertise and operate in the county versus the others that were just coming in every once in a while."
- "That's kind of our reason to try to enforce this ordinance Your Honor. When you have a group like Lakeside that's being much more aggressive than the others and that's why we--that's why they are involved in this litigation and not the others."
I contend the County Chairman and the State's Attorney have used their position of authority to basically strong arm a local business in an attempt to shut them down from all operations in Effingham County. This attempt was made because they are aggressive in their marketing. For those that are not familiar with a successful business plan, aggressive marketing is part of a good plan.
Sadly for the taxpayers of Effingham, it would appear their duly elected official's tyrannical actions have opened the door for a Federal 1983 Civil Rights Discrimination case. Hard to see it any other way when their top law enforcement officer, the State's Attorney, tells the court the reason Lakeside Ambulance is being sued and not anyone else is because of their aggressive marketing.
It appears from reading the transcript, which you can download at this link or view below, the Judge saw this for what it was, a clear overreach by the county. The Judge denied the County's TRO attempting to punish a local business who marketed in a fashion that County Chairman Niemann did not agree with.
The basis for the denial was that he found there was a substantial question with regard to protectable interest and the likeliness to succeed.
"And for those reasons, the Court finds that there is a substantial question with regard to protectable interest and the likeliness to succeed based on the information provided about the Defendant by affidavit."
We believe the local ambulance will prevail in this action and the County may soon face a Federal discrimination case for their actions.
Based on the words of the State's Attorney during the TRO hearing, we are calling for State's Attorney Brian Kibler and County Board Chairman Jim Niemann to resign from office immediately. There is no place in public office for people that use their position of power to attack free enterprise based on their clear right to market their service to the public. This is Tyranny and should never be tolerated in our country, a Constitutional Republic.