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Ala. EMS Manager Alleges Agency Misuses Public Funds

The Anniston Star, Ala.

Aug. 02—A former Oxford EMS employee this week filed a second suit against the ambulance service, alleging misuse of public funds and wrongful termination.

The newest suit, which also includes the city of Oxford and its City Council, also alleges that Oxford EMS was improperly formed and the Oxford City Council didn't have the authority to establish it when it did.

Melissa Hall was an officer manager for Oxford EMS until July 2017. She alleges in a suit filed Monday that she was fired after reporting to city and Oxford EMS officials that "she was asked to do things she believed in good faith to be unethical and unlawful."

In the complaint, Hall requests punitive damages, the dissolution of the agency, and a return of misused property and funds. The suit also asks the agency to produce a "writ of quo warranto," a document that would show the agency's authority to run an ambulance service.

Reached by phone Thursday, Oxford city attorney Ron Allen said he had just received the complaint and could not comment on it without further inspection.

Mark White, a Birmingham attorney representing the Oxford EMS board of directors, declined to comment other than pointing out Hall's previous legal actions against the agency.

"This will be round four, and we're three-and-oh," he said.

Representing Hall is Anniston attorney and former Calhoun County circuit judge Joel Laird. Reached by phone Thursday, Laird said he feels confident his client will get the relief she asks for.

"I'm not going to file something frivolous or that doesn't have merit," he said.

Laird said Thursday that his office was in the process of filing motions for discovery of evidence and testimony.

"There's a lot more to the story that hopefully will eventually come out," he said.

Before becoming the Oxford EMS manager in 2014, Hall was Laird's judicial assistant when he was a circuit judge and his legal assistant when he left the bench, according to Laird.

Hall brought a suit against the Oxford EMS board of directors in 2017, saying the board violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act. A judge dismissed the suit, however, saying Hall did not meet the requirements for a private citizen to bring a lawsuit under the act: He or she must show they were more harmed by the alleged violation than any other member of the public.

Oxford EMS director Ricky Howell was cleared of alleged ethics law violations in 2017. After seeing the results of an investigation, the commission's members found "there was not probable cause" to believe that Howell violated the state's ethics law.

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