Editor’s note: The following are quotes from Administrative Law Judge Eric Sawyer’s opinion in his decision regarding the Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s termination of former Capt. James Reyes.
Sawyer found the facts presented during seven days of hearings did not support Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz’s decision to fire Reyes.
Throughout the opinion, Sawyer refers to Reitz as “the complainant” and to Reyes as “the respondent.” For easier reading, we have replaced the legal terms with the actual name.
The full decision may be read online at here. The page number refers to the page where the quote appears in the decision.
“[Reyes’s] termination should be reversed. The most persuasive expert witness testimony established [his] performance on the call in question did not violate applicable policy, rules or regulations, and was not below the standard of care. The Medical Director’s recommendation was based on erroneous reasoning and cannot alone support termination.” (Page 2)
“Another important dynamic was Mr. McCurdy’s emphasis at the beginning and end of the interview that, although he felt [Reyes] at a minimum would require some remediation based on his performance on the call … Mr. McCurdy told respondent near the end of the interview that ‘by no means over this call do I make any recommendation to REMS[A] to suspend your accreditation or do I give this one to the [EMSA] over this.” (Page 12)
“[Reitz’s] testimony on this issue was discredited by the persuasive testimony of Phillip Rawlings, who is the EMS bureau Chief in charge of the CQI process for Cal Fire Riverside County. Bureau Chief Rawlings persuasively testified IFPD never contacted Cal Fire for its information on this call …” (Page 13)
“Cal Fire Riverside County took no employment action against PM Strouse and made no referral about his handling of the call to REMSA.” (Page 17)
“REMSA’s Medial Director, Daved van Stralen, reviewed the matter … decided no action against [Reyes] was warranted, including remediation … he does not believe [Reyes] acted below the standard of care in handling the call in question or committed any misconduct.” (Page 18)
“Mr. McCurdy [IFPD’s investigator] did not conduct ‘a full, fair and accurate review of this call.’” (Page 20)
“REMSA policy 3303 provides the first arriving paramedic is in charge.” (Page 21)
“None of the expert witnesses contend the actions or inactions of [Reyes] did harm to the baby or impacted the outcome of his care.” (Page 24)
“An arbitrator or hearing officer should not overturn the termination of a public employee simply because he believes the discipline is too severe.” (Page 28)
“[Reitz’s] decision to terminate respondent due to his performance on the call in January 2014 was erroneous …As a factual matter, it was not established respondent failed to act or perform his duties on the call in question … Dr. van Stralen established [Reyes] did not violate any of the three REMSA polices alleged in the Notice of Termination.” (Page 29)
“… none of the other personnel on scene were disciplined by their employers, and no action was taken against [Reyes] accreditation or licensure. The consensus of all expert witnesses in this case, including Mr. McCurdy, is that no harm or injury to the patient in question can be attributed to either PM Strouse or respondent.” (Page 32)
“Preponderance of the evidence established [Reitz], in his capacity as the IFPD chief, abused his discretion in deciding to terminate respondent.” (Page 33)
“Respondent James Reyes’s appeal is granted. Reyes’s termination from employment with the Idyllwild Fire Protection District as a paramedic and captain is reversed.” (Page 33, conclusion)