Oklahoma auditor criticizes EMSA, calls for 'change in culture'

EMSA was criticized in an Oklahoma audit for expenditures including satellite radio for a CEO. The state auditor and inspector said the EMSA Board of Trustees stood by while improper spending took place.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: January 22, 2013 at 8:49 pm •  Published: January 22, 2013
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A state audit calls for stricter policies and procedures and a “change in culture” at the ambulance company that services Oklahoma City, Tulsa and surrounding areas.

More oversight by the Board of Trustees for Emergency Medical Services Authority may have prevented thousands of dollars in inappropriate spending by its chief executive officer, Stephen Williamson, according to the report.

Williamson's decisions regarding EMSA's service contracts, some made without board knowledge, also may present the appearance of a conflict of interest in violation of the authority's code of conduct, according to the report.

EMSA, which is supported by a monthly charge on subscribers' utility bills, is a public trust authority of Oklahoma City and Tulsa and is a political subdivision of the state.

The authority's board — which oversees ambulance services for more than a million Oklahomans — requested the audit after questionable expenditures by Williamson and other authority employees were exposed by the media in 2011.

Williamson was reimbursed for more than $400,000 in expenses between January 2009 and June 2012, more than half of which had no board oversight, according to the report.

The purchases, many of which were not supported with invoices, included a $669 room service bill, a $415 spa bill and nearly $800 in satellite radio subscriptions, and they comprised 50 percent of reimbursements to all 37 EMSA employees at the time.

Other authority expenses outlined in the report included $40,000 in rent paid for an apartment in Oklahoma City, a $4,300 anniversary party in October 2009 — including for catering services and expensive Mont Blanc pens — and more than $35,000 in floral arrangements for office beautification and consolation gifts.

Proper policies are

needed, auditor says

No illegal spending was uncovered, but state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said the authority's board stood by while improper spending took place.

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