Chief suggests a contract at lame duck board's last meeting; board tables discussion

In a last-minute effort, Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services Chief Mike Lepin drew up his own employment contract for a lame duck board to sign at their last meeting, Monday, June 14.

"It's a whole lot of uncertainty for me," says Lepin.

In the May election, three challengers unseated three of the five board members. The incoming board members gained a majority on the board and their joint intent is to consolidate Jefferson County's fire service and ambulance service.

"I know the current board and I have no reason not to trust the current board," says Lepin. "I don't know the incoming board very well."

Lepin surprised the board by putting his employment contract on the agenda. "When I told them, three of the board members said, 'Employment contract? Are you going somewhere else?'"

On the advice of his father, Lepin cobbled together a contract from examples he found online.

"I couldn't go to the department attorney," says Lepin, "because the attorney works for the department."

The contract Lepin proposed included a salary of $95,472, about what he makes now with a cost-of-living increase.

The contract proposal also includes a no-cause termination severance package of 10 months' salary.

"I found other examples online," says Lepin, "which include a half-month salary for each year of service. I've been with the department for 20 years."

The June 14 meeting was the last for outgoing members John Curnutt and Pat Neff, who have served on the board since its inception, 35 years, and Louise Muir, who has served on the board since 2017. It was the last opportunity for Lepin to present an employment contract to a board he knew to be supportive.

"I don't think he was trying to be underhanded," says outgoing board member Louise Muir. "Employees are going to have to protect themselves. They have to be vigilant."

One of the newly elected board members, Janet Brown, attended the meeting by Zoom. She pointed out the packet containing the contract had not been made available to the public the required 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

The board decided to table discussion of Lepin's contract.

"There's no reason to panic," said Brown. "He just needs to talk to us. Nobody's going anywhere."

"I'm disappointed," says Mike Ahern, also newly elected to the EMS board. "It's not a good way to start. Things will work out. This is a black eye for Mike Lepin."

Upon reflection, Lepin says he'll have others look over the document and probably rework the contract before presenting it to the next board. "We've never had a contract here, so it was kind of hard to come up with one since we've never had one."

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