Coroner's race heats up : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Coroner's race heats up|
|Toftoy's consultant puts opponent's job disciplinary notices on website |
|by Matt Schury|
Mike Dabney, an independent candidate for Kendall County Coroner, responded to information posted last week on a website regarding disciplinary action he received as a firefighter/paramedic with the Oswego Fire Protection District over a 10 month period.
The five disciplinary notices Dabney received between August 2011 and June 2012 were posted on a website as blog entries created by Jon Zahm, a political consultant hired by incumbent Kendall County Coroner Ken Toftoy.
Dabney sees the posting as political mudslinging.
"If I lose the election because he (Ken Toftoy) ... mud-slings and trashes my name, well so be it and at least I can put my head on my pillow at night and go to sleep," Dabney said.
Toftoy said he wasn't aware of the site until the Ledger-Sentinel asked him about it Tuesday. After reading the disciplinary notices posted on the site, Toftoy said it was up to the voters to decide if it mattered in the campaign.
"There's really not too much to say other than he's been written up," Toftoy said, adding that he was a paramedic for 24 years before becoming coroner. "I guess I would feel bad if I had something like that happen to me."
When asked about the website, Zahm said the disciplinary notices should not be taken lightly.
"It really should be looked at by the citizens very carefully before they cast their vote," he said. "There is a serious issue with professionalism here and how could you possibly promote this individual who's not even handling his job as a paramedic very effectively and promote him to a higher position?"
Zahm added that he obtained the information from individuals who made Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Oswego Fire Protection District.
"Freedom of Information Act requests were made by individuals and I acquired the documents and I checked them over for accuracy. They appeared to be real and legitimate and after doing that I felt that they were and I published them on the website," Zahm said.
When asked who filed the requests Zahm declined to say.
"I'm not going to state those names," he said. "I don't want to see a situation where Dabney supporters attack the deliverer of the bad news. We need to focus on what the bad news is and not deflect it onto other people."
FOIA request submitted
Information provided by Dabney indicates that Mike Klimek, a Kendall County Deputy Coroner, and retired Circuit Court Judge Jim Wilson, also a deputy coroner, filed the FOIA requests for the disciplinary records last month. Wilson confirmed that he filed the request but Klimek, who filed his request electronically, could not be reached for comment as of press time.
"I asked for several things and that was included," Wilson said. "I have not said or done anything with them. I just got them because there are several people who told me he had been cited for disciplinary actions in terms of his duties and in fact there were five of them."
Wilson said several people filed FOIA requests for the disciplinary notices.
"I'm not the only one. I did it for my own personal reasons. I've not written any letter I have not mailed anything I have done nothing with it," Wilson said.
When asked if he turned it over to Zahm Wilson said no.
"I don't believe I did, I turned it over to a friend of mine but I did not directly turn it over to Jon Zahm," he said.
Dabney talked about the disciplinary action he faced working for the Oswego Fire District.
"It's good to be out in front of it here," he said. "The department takes everything seriously, it's not just a slap on the wrist."
The disciplinary notices include three written warnings, an oral reprimand and a notice of suspension.
Oswego Fire Chief Rick Neitzer confirmed that FOIA requests were filed for Dabney's personnel file but declined to comment on who filed those requests and didn't want to comment on the disciplinary action taken against Dabney.
"The fire department doesn't comment publicly on its employee's personnel files," Neitzer said.
Documents show Dabney received a "notice of suspension" in June for "failure to deliver appropriate pediatric care per SFV (Southern Fox Valley) EMS protocol to a pediatric patient. Giving an inappropriate medication to a pediatric patient. Failure to recognize the age parameters in the SVF pediatric protocol."
Dabney was subsequently suspended for one day on June 19 and was required to attend remedial training provided by the OFPD EMS coordinator, the report shows. Dabney explained that he and four other first responders responded to an accident involving a child who had jumped out of a moving vehicle and suffered a head injury.
"What we did, it didn't harm the child, it was just we followed a different protocol than what was called for and that was all," Dabney said. "It has nothing to do with the child's injury it didn't cause further injury or anything like that. We were trying to do what we could to try to save that child. It was a very serious case."
Another such notice dated August 2011 shows Dabney was given a written warning and 36 hours of sick time deducted after he failed to show for duty.
The report indicated Dabney was on a time trade with a fellow firefighter/paramedic. Dabney was on vacation, the report indicates, when he was to report to duty on Aug. 10, 2011 for a 24-hour shift at Oswego Fire Station 2. Dabney was called that morning about going to work and "stated he messed up and would not be reporting for duty due to the fact that he was on vacation in Michigan," according to the disciplinary notice.
Dabney explained that he traded time off with another firefighter/paramedic in February and planned a vacation in August not knowing that was the month he was supposed to work for the other paramedic.
"I had been off for three weeks and didn't check my calendar," he said, adding that he was in Michigan taking care of his 84-year-old mother. "It was just an oversight on my part, it wasn't like, jeeze I choose not to show up or call for work," Dabney said. "I didn't mark that day on my calendar and as time went along-yeah, it's my fault and I got reprimanded for it and I had to pay back the time."
Another written warning dated this May does not show any disciplinary action for taking took long to complete an incident report at a hospital.
"We had computer issue at the hospital and it was because I took too long at the hospital," Dabney said.
Another written warning from April 2012 shows Dabney had a seven-minute delay to a structure fire in Village of Minooka. The report does not indicate any disciplinary action and says Dabney was in violation of the "general do's and don'ts" of the district's administration/operation manual.
Dabney explained that he and his partner were doing fire inspections and had their radios on the wrong channel. They have NEXTEL phones but at the time those towers were down and they couldn't be reached.
"I'm not very proud of that but it happened," he said.
Dabney also received an oral reprimand in December 2012, the report indicates, for "failure to respond to call in an appropriate time."
Dabney said the call was for a car fire.
"It was a moment of indecision on our part and we got a verbal reprimand," Dabney said. "We were misunderstanding our own protocols, my partner and I," he said.
Dabney added that with the exception of him being suspended for missing work, most of the incidents involved others in the fire crew.
"We work as a team and if a team screws up, the whole team gets written up," he said.
Dabney said prior to 2011 he had never been disciplined since he began working as a full time Oswego firefighter/paramedic in 2006.
"This happened to be the luck of the draw and a fluke year-I've never been written up for anything before because otherwise they would have had those because they FOIAed all my records," he said. "I'm not a rogue employee or anything. I'm a good employee and a good public servant."
'Appalled' or appropriate
In response to his disciplinary files being made public Dabney said he was "appalled."
"I'm sorry, I'm appalled that a 20 year incumbent would stoop to doing this," Dabney said. "Zahm is, in my opinion, a paid political hit man. And I'm sorry but there's all kinds of things that I could go after and make things look really bad but that's not who I am."
He added that he would rather run on the issues and have people elect him because they know he can do the job.
"I'm not a negative campaigner. I'm not going to go out there and purposely trash people," Dabney said.
"I don't know how many hundreds of people have told me they like how I'm doing my campaign, they like that I'm bring out the issues," he said. "They like that I'm not trash talking or negative campaigning."
Zahm said that it seemed appropriate to him to post the disciplinary actions to inform voters.
"I would say Harry Truman said it right, 'They think it's hell but it's the truth,'" he said. "I would be embarrassed if I were him. With a record like that I think dropping out of the race would be a wise move to save himself further embarrassment. He's welcome to stay in the race and let the voters decide."
Zahm explained that he didn't sit down with Toftoy before he put the information on the website.
"I made this decision to go forward with the website on my own because frankly Kenny is too nice a guy to put a website up like that," he said. "I like to think that I'm a nice guy too but I'm also someone who believes in getting information out to the public."
When asked if it was fair to put this out in a campaign, Toftoy said that he saw some of the campaigning by Dabney this summer as unfair. For instance, Toftoy noted that Dabney took him to task for using taxpayer dollars to order steaks for dinner while attending training conferences in Chicago.
"Running around with a sign that says 'eat chicken not beef,' what kind of attitude is that?" Toftoy said. "That's what they were running around with this summer."
"This is true stuff," Toftoy said. "It's just like Romney and Obama."
He added that he has a good record in office.
"But again, I didn't bring this up, Jon brought it up. I take the high road usually and like I say-ask families how I have done in 20 years. How does Kenny work with law enforcement? How does Kenny work with families? That's the important thing you gotta look at."
In response to Zahm's suggestion that he drop out of the race, Dabney indicated he has no such plans.
"Why would he want to see me drop out of the race? He (Zahm) doesn't live in Kendall County and he is a paid political consultant," Dabney said.
"One, I am not dropping out of the race, I'm here to stay and the reason that they would want me to drop out of the race is so that things can continue as status quo. I'm not going any place," Dabney said.