Union rails after EMS Captain’s demotion

ATCEMS Captain Eric Chandler, fired by the department on June 28, 2016 (ATCEMS Photo)
ATCEMS Captain Eric Chandler, fired by the department on June 28, 2016 (ATCEMS Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN)- The union representing Austin Travis-County EMS workers calls the demotion of an EMS Captain ‘an egregious reaction to the relative benign nature of the facts.’

ATCEMSA President Tony Marquardt said in an emailed statement an appeal has been filed.

Captain Eric Chandler (pictured above) was demoted to Medic II – Field after what EMS Chief Ernie Rodriguez in a disciplinary memo called ‘a pattern of ‘unprofessional conduct, discourtesy and lack of respect for his co-workers.’

In the latest of several incidents, 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.

The union’s Marquardt said he is grateful for the protections of civil service.

“We are becoming more assertive advocates on matters of safety that affect our community. It is unfortunate the few at the top are given full reign to perpetuate their ongoing tactics of fear and intimidation,” he said in the email.

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. That’s a near certainty now that the ATCEMSA plans to request an appeal hearing.

The demotion memo came out at the same time as a 30-day suspension notice for an Austin Travis-County EMS chief who admitted he used his city-issued vehicle for personal travel on more than one occasion.

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