Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad explains events

October 27, 2017

Editor's note: Melissa Steele's reporting was based on Mid-Sussex financial statements filed with Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission. Steele made numerous attempts to contact Mid-Sussex officials. They did not respond for comment.

Recently, reporter Melissa Steele has been publishing inaccurate news articles which make the Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad out to be a group of bad actors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad serves the community of Long Neck with ambulance services, transporting 2,075 patients to local hospitals and handling 3,088 calls for assistance in Fiscal Year 2017. This past summer alone, 583 persons were transported, and 798 calls responded to by the squad. The Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad is staffed by professional, well-trained volunteers and paid personnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those are the facts.

During Fiscal Year 2017, it was discovered that a member of the squad had misappropriated funds. An investigation into the squad member, the extent of the fraud and the involvement of our bank ensued. The fraud was reported specifically in the 2016 and 2017 financial reviews.

The squad took steps immediately to recover the missing funds. All funds were, indeed, recovered and there was no financial harm to the squad, the State of Delaware, Sussex County or - most importantly - our donors. The squad did not wait until wrongdoings were discovered by others; they uncovered the fraud, took steps to investigate, recovered the funds, filed the appropriate reports and protected the community. Period.

I find it ironic that Ms. Steele spends a great deal of time misreporting the facts and painting the squad in a poor light while ignoring the problems associated with a neighboring fire company and one of its officers. In a case where wrongdoing was discovered and the fraud caught - and only then did the wrongdoers come forward - Ms. Steele was noticeably silent. Why? This particular fraud involved one person allegedly defrauding the fire company, a school district, the state and the county. And not a peep from Ms. Steele.

Ms. Steele even goes back 15 years ago when a member (now deceased) may have misused funds. A review by the state auditor resulted in changes being made to the manner in which funds were processed. The attorney general took no action to prosecute in this incident.

The Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad provides a much-needed service without pay. The service saves the taxpayers of Sussex County thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of dollars annually. The services are paid through a small assessment charged to insurance premiums, fines for motor vehicle violations, fees paid by insurance companies and donations from the local community.

The particular person named in Ms. Steele's article has been a driving force over the years to bring this much-needed ambulance service to the area. He has dedicated countless hours of volunteer service. Ms. Steele seems to gloss over those facts. Ms. Steele reports that the squad purchased a motor vehicle for use by a member of the squad. Here again, Ms. Steele does not accurately reflect the facts. Most fire companies and ambulance squads have a vehicle to be used by the officer in charge or the on-call commander for emergency use only during the time they are on call or coverage. Ms. Steele reports this vehicle was provided for someone's personal use. Wrong again. What a shame. Additionally, Ms. Steele raises the issue of Jerry Johnson as a sign of the squad's competence. At this writing, Mr. Johnson accepted an offer of probation before judgment from the state - which indicates the state did not believe the case against Johnson was ripe for prosecution. Once Mr. Johnson completes his "probation," the matter is closed and it is as if he was never arrested. He is suspended pending resolution of these matters. Wonder if Ms. Steele will report that?

One cannot understand why a person who holds themselves out as a "news reporter" does such a poor job in getting the facts, getting them correct and presenting them properly. Why does one squad wind up on the front page all the time, where another company with far worse frauds occurring never gets reported? In the future, it might be helpful for Ms. Steele and her employer to report the facts – rather than rumor, gossip and innuendo.

Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad is proud of the service it provides and the members who do so. This community is well-served, protected and cared for by this squad. And will be for the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Gerald Burbage
honorary member
financial advisor
On the behalf of the members and board of Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad

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