The chairwoman of the board that oversees the state's largest ambulance service said its managers are “on the right track” to fix discrepancies outlined in a highly critical state audit.
Lillian Perryman said both management and the board of directors that oversees operations of Emergency Medical Services Authority are making significant strides to ensure the authority spends its money and resources in the most cost-effective — and legal — way possible.
“In my own opinion, we've had many good years of good leadership,” Perryman said Friday. “Are there things that weren't done probably as well as they should have been? Very possibly so. I don't think there was any upfront purpose to do anything wrong.”
The authority, also known as EMSA, is a public trust authority of Oklahoma City and Tulsa and provides ambulance service to more than 1 million Oklahomans in those cities and surrounding areas.
A state audit released in January said lax policies and procedures by management and the authority's board may have led to thousands of dollars in inappropriate spending by its chief executive officer, Stephen Williamson.
Williamson's business decisions, some made without board knowledge, may have violated the authority's code of conduct, but no illegal spending was uncovered, according to the audit.
Management response to the audit was provided to The Oklahoman on Friday, and Perryman said they will be going over each of the audit's findings and recommendations at a meeting Wednesday in Stroud.
Perryman said the board will develop oversight committees in finance, ethics and personnel and that she is already personally reviewing all authority expenditures in excess of $2,500, as recommended by the auditors.
“We do want more oversight by the board,” she said. “Not every little detail, but I think big items, items that could be considered possibly questionable, we want to address that before any of that is paid for upfront.”
The audit, which was requested by the board after media reports revealed questionable spending habits by Williamson, indicated he spent more than $400,000 between January 2009 and June 2012, more than half without board oversight.
Purchases included room service, spa visits, satellite radio subscriptions and expensive catering events and parties.
The audit also revealed EMSA since 2009 used its nonprofit status to purchase at a tax-free rate more than $7 million of fuel and equipment for the contractor it relies on for paramedic services and then having the contractor reimburse the authority at the cheaper rate.
Perryman said that practice was reviewed and approved by the board's attorney and said it will continue.
“It was used for the public good and also to try and cut down on costs that would have been passed along to the towns involved,” she said.
But another member of the board, Ed Shadid, who also sits on the Oklahoma City Council, said he doesn't believe EMSA can truly address issues outlined in the audit without a change of management.
“I've seen enough to know that the discredited leadership needs to be changed,” Shadid said.
Are there things that weren't done probably as well as they should have been? Very possibly so. I don't think there was any upfront purpose to do anything wrong.”
Emergency Medical Services Authority chairwoman