EMS Chief pays the price for a ‘free’ ride home

AUSTIN (KXAN) – An Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Chief has agreed to take 30 unpaid days off work after using his city-issued vehicle more than once in the past year for personal use. The actions violated departmental policy, records show.

A new disciplinary memo shows Division Chief Peter J. DiDonato, a 22-year veteran City of Austin employee who earns a $104,000 annual salary according to city records, was told more than once the practice of using his EMS vehicle for personal use was not allowed.

The Chief is allowed to take his EMS vehicle to and from home, but nowhere else. Some Austin Police and Sheriff’s Office staff also take their vehicles home within city or county policies.

The disciplinary memo also shows Chief DiDonato who runs the Employee Development and Wellness Division will use six vacation days during his suspension which began Feb 24th, 2014. It will continue into March on grounds of professional misconduct and an act bringing discredit on the department.

Unlike Austin Police, EMS staff in a case like this are not allowed to appeal a disciplinary action once that employee signs the memo. On the other side, employees are protected from being indefinitely suspended or demoted due to the action cited.

EMS Captain demoted after posting cell phone videos


Separately, EMS managers demoted an EMS Captain after a disciplinary memo showed what was called pattern of ‘unprofessional conduct, discourtesy and lack of respect for his co-workers.’

Captain EEMS Capt Eric Chandlerric Chandler was demoted to Medic II – Field after several alleged incidents. In the latest, the memo shows Chandler used his personal cell phone Aug 27th 2013 to videotape a colleague eating a taco ‘to see how fast (that worker) could eat a taco.’ The video made without the co-worker’s consent was posted on Chandler’s Facebook page and shown to another ATCEMS employee.

The memo also alleges Chandler made a second video recording September 22nd, 2013 showing an Austin Fire truck inadvertently losing its hose en route to an emergency medical call.

Chandler made the video from the passenger seat of an ambulance responding to the same call, behind the fire truck. He also posted this video online with audio of him cheering ‘before any attempt was made to contact the AFD unit,’ the memo states.

It goes on to say, Chandler ‘failed to take immediate action which created the potential of serious injury or property damage as the hose was dragged along the street.’

It goes onto say Chandler set a poor example for his partner and ‘other ATCEMS employees who saw the video were offended by Chandler’s actions that day.’

In May, then-Captain Eric Chandler was suspended for two days after a disciplinary memo showed, after dropping off a patient at Seton Northwest Hospital, he told another medic he thought staff there were unprofessional. The comment was overheard by ER staff.

Citing city pay grades, the demotion means Chandler will lose nearly $29,000 in gross salary. City records show last year his base EMS Captain’s pay was $74,780. A Medic II – Field position pays about $46,101 before overtime.  Last year, Chandler earned $101,000 in total pay.

Under Civil Service protocol, EMS managers requested a Civil Service hearing be held to determine if there is probable cause for Chandler’s recommended demotion. In this case, he has the right to appeal the ruling to an independent third party.

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