Fire & EMS

Skyrocketing Fire/EMS costs, misleading claims and budgets, and potential conflicts of interest in Kennett

Organizations

  • EMS: Emergency Medical Services (Ambulance)

  • KFC: Kennett Fire Company

  • KFERC: Kennett Fire and Emergency Services Regional Commission

  • KSQ: Borough of Kennett Square

  • KT: Kennett Township

  • KT-BOS: Kennett Township Board of Supervisors

  • LFC: Longwood Fire Company

People

  • Hoffman: Whitney Hoffman, Kennett Township Supervisor

  • Leff: Richard Leff, Kennett Township Supervisor

  • Ratliff / Mrs Ratliff : Mr. Eden Ratliff (Kennett Township Manager) and Mrs Gabrielle Ratliff 

  • Stevens: Scudder Stevens, Kennett Township Supervisor

Jan 2020

Longwood Fire Company (LFC) reports a 20% loss in 2019

What happened? 

LFC reports a $420K loss on its 990 form for 2019, far worse than Kennett Fire Company's (KFC's losses ($127K in 2019). About 3/4s of the loss is in capital depreciation.

Concerns? Sustainability

What are the CONCERNS?

Sustainability 

LFC’s ongoing costs are higher than that of KFC, and other comparable companies. Such losses and chronic deficits can signal that an organization is not sustainable, because revenue is too low, or operating costs are too high. Losses involving capital depreciation (e.g., aging buildings and equipment) are not problematic if there is a long-term capital plan to replace buildings and equipment.

Late 2020

Ratliff joins LFC

What happened? 

Ratliff, his wife, and his brother become LFC volunteers

Concerns? Conflict of interest

What are the CONCERNS?

Conflict of interest 

Ratliff never reveals his affiliation with LFC (it is reported by a resident after the dismantling of KFC was complete). This affiliation could have biased Ratliff's conclusions at each stage of his analyses and recommendations - for example, it could lead him to overlook concerns of an organization that he was a member of.

Oct 2020

Ratliff recommends giving KT EMS to LFC

What happened? 

At a public Kennett Township (KT) Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting on 10/29/20, Ratliff first proposes moving KT EMS from Kennett KFC to LFC, He claims it is a funding issue, and that taxes might otherwise have to be increased (see meeting minutes and Ratliff’s presentation).

Concerns? Biased interpretations and misleading claims

What are the concerns? 

Biased interpretations 

The report referenced by Ratliff recommended a "single system", not necessarily one provider, and certainly did not recommend LFC.

Misleading claims

Through this process, Ratliff claimed savings and improvements that never materialized, and tax increases for 2022 barely covered the increased costs of EMS services.

Late 2020

Ratliff begins analysis of EMS

What happened? 

Ratliff begins analyses of existing and proposed EMS models with KFC and LFC, on behalf of KT and KFERC.

Concerns? Conflict of Interest

What are the CONCERNS?

Conflict of Interest

Ratliff had still failed to disclose his membership in LFC even as he conducting analyses of its principle competitor.

Dec 2020

Ratliff recommends giving all KT EMS services to LFC

What happened? 

At a KT-BOS meeting on 12/2/20, Ratliff recommends giving the KT EMS contract to LFC, claiming that it will save KT $41k and the region $250k, without decreasing the quality of services 

Concerns? Decreased services and misleading budgets

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading budgets

The claimed cost savings never materialized, and Ratliff downplayed the fact that LFC charges $270 more that KFC for some EMS services.

Decreased service

Ratliff's changes decreased the total hours of EMS coverage by 25%, but he claimed EMS was more efficient. Less than one year later, neighboring townships report increased EMS costs and decreased coverage because their providers are being called in to cover Kennett  

KT-BOS provisionally transfers KT EMS services to LFC

What happened? 

To appease concerned residents, Supervisors Hoffman and Leff vote to complete transfer to LFC if LFC and KFC are unable to reach a compromise within 6 weeks.

Concerns? Bad Faith Negotiations

What are the CONCERNS?

Bad Faith Negotiations

Hoffman and Leff's proposal to terminate EMS contract with KFC only if LFC and KFC cannot negotiate a compromise creates no incentive for LFC to change their position. Not surprisingly, negotiations fall flat. 

Feb 2021

Ratliff rejects KFC's counter-proposal

What happened? 

Ratliff rejects KFC's counter proposal for EMS services despite potentially greater cost savings.  

Concerns? Misleading claims

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading claims

Ratliff's proposals to reorganize EMS initially centered on potential cost-savings, he summarily rejects a counter-proposals from KFC that actually offered cost reductions. 

Mar 2021

KT EMS services given to LFC

What happened? 

Following Ratliff's rejection of KFC's counter-proposal, KT EMS services are taken over by LFC.  One day later, LFC submits a letter requesting $70k in new funding. 

Concerns? Misleading budgets

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading budgets

Despite his extensive "analyses", Ratliff failed to account for LFC's additional start-up costs. 

Ratliff presents analyses claiming KFC's fire response is inadequate

What happened? 

Ratliff's preliminary report presented to KT-BOS on 3/17/21  noted that KFC was missing some important performance benchmarks, primarily because of difficulty recruiting volunteers in a pandemic, but in public meetings Ratliff and Hoffman repeatedly characterize KFC as failing to respond to fires. 

Concerns? Misleading claims

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading claims

Ratliff never established a clear connection between those statistics and any real public safety concerns or specific consequences.

Apr 2021

Ratliff negotiates the dismantling of KFC

What happened? 

When KFC proposes to request paid firefighters to address performance concerns,  Ratliff agrees to support this only if KFC agrees to turn all EMS services and fire dispatching to LFC, because this is the only way to pay for it. 

Concerns? Bad faith negotiations

What are the CONCERNS?

Bad faith negotiations

Ratliff's claim that more money needed to be cut elsewhere to support the cost of KFC's request for paid firefighters was disingenuous, given his other claims that some of the $250k "saved" by transferring all KT EMS to LFC might be used to fund other improvements.

Ratliff rushes to transfer all EMS services and Fire dispatching to LFC

What happened? 

Ratliff presents his recommendations at a special KT-BOS meeting called with just 24 hours notice, rejecting KFC's counter proposal, claiming an urgent need to transfer control of all emergency services to LFC. 

Concerns? Misleading claims

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading claims

Ratliff urges immediate action, ignoring the unique challenges involved when relying on volunteers in a pandemic, and the progress KFC had already demonstrating how they might close performance gaps.  7 months later, Ratliff acknowledges these challenges, by proposing that $250k be spent on volunteer recruitment, though without any accompanying plan.

Ratliff admits to association with LFC

What happened? 

In response to a question at the public meeting to review the changes, Ratliff admits the he and his family became volunteers at LFC. 

Concerns? Conflict of interest

What are the CONCERNS?

Conflicts of interest

Ratliff only admitted to his association with LFC after being publicly questioned.  It is reasonable to conclude that this association predisposed Ratliff to favoring LFC in all negotiations.

Aug 2021

LFC advertises for a paid Executive Assistant

What happened? 

LFC posts a new position of Assistant to the Director that appears to have been funded through the budget increases engineered by Ratliff. The position states specific preferences that appear to be tailored to Mrs. Ratliff's qualifications  

Concerns? Misleading budgets and a possible quid pro quo

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading budgets

All of the budget proposals presented to KT-BOS focused on increasing paid firefighters: none referenced a need to increase administrative support. 

A quid pro quo

Tailoring the job description to Mrs Ratliff's qualifications  assured that she would be the preferred candidate, thus  creating the potential opportunity for a quid pro quo for the increased funding engineered by Ratliff.

Oct 2021

Mrs. Ratliff hired as Executive Assistant at LFC

What happened? 

Mrs. Ratliff joins LFC as Executive Assistant to the Chief.. 

Concerns? Conflicts of interest

What are the CONCERNS?

Conflicts of interest

His wife's employment creates a clear and immediate conflict of interest for Ratliff that could easily lead him to favor proposals that benefit LFC. 

Nov 2021

32% increase in Fire / EMS costs proposed for 2022

What happened? 

Ratliff presents a proposed budget that includes massive increases in the emergency services budget for 2022 budget, to cover based on a very generous salary schedule for firefighters, a $250k "volunteer recruitment program, and "years of deficit spending".

Concerns? Misleading budgets

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading budgets

The proposed budget included no details regarding how $250k for volunteer recruitment might be spent, claimed that $125k was needed for each new firefighter hired, and offer no explanation for "years of deficit spending". 

Ratliff admits the his wife has been hired by LFC

What happened? 

Following a tip from a resident, Ratliff admits to KT supervisors that his wife is working at LFC.

Concerns? Conflicts of interest

What are the CONCERNS?

Conflicts of interest

Except for stepping down as a KT representative to the KFERC, no actions appear to have been taken to investigate and correct the influence of Ratliff's conflicts of interest with regards to a reorganization of emergency services that favored the agency that just hired his wife into a position apparently tailored to her qualifications. 

Dec 2021

Tax increase for 2022 proposed to "invest in capital fund"

What happened? 

Ratliff proposes a tax increase for 2022, claiming that this will serve to increase funding for capital projects. 

Concerns? Misleading budgets

What are the CONCERNS?

Misleading budgets

The increased revenue for the proposed tax increase appears likely to be almost equivalent to the additional $180k KT would have to pay to cover the increased cost of emergency services. 

Letters sent to PA Ethics Commission and KT residents outlining the most significant concerns referenced above

What happened? 

We submitted a formal request to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission to investigate the conflicts of interest referenced above, and then sent a letter to all KT residents outlining the concerns about Fire/EMS re-organization.

What happened? Failure to supervise

Concerns?

Failure to supervise

KT supervisors knew about the most recent conflicts of interest and the request to the Ethics Commission, but declined my invitation to meet one on one to hear their concerns and questions (emails available upon request). The Commission responded immediately to the complaint, indicating that they require more specific evidence to launch an investigation, which we intend to pursue.   

KSQ requests advice from PA Attorney General regarding ethics of Ratliff's conduct

What happened? 

The KSQ Borough Council formally requested that the Attorney General rule on whether Ratliff promotion of 'funding for LFC s constitutes a conflict of interest and, if so, what steps should be taken.

What happened? Failure to supervise

Concerns?

Failure to supervise

KT supervisors could have requested such guidance when they first learned on 11/8/21 about Ratliff's new conflict of interest, and then disclosed it publicly.  It is remarkable that the request for such guidance had to come from a neighboring municipality, more than one month after the conflict was first disclosed.