Mark Stahl case: Appeals court rules in favor of fire district

Larry Limpf

A decision by the Ottawa County Common Pleas Court that upholds a disciplinary measure against a battalion fire chief of the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District has been affirmed by the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.
Mark Stahl had filed the appeal after the common pleas court in June 2020 ruled the fire district board of trustees correctly found him guilty of misconduct in office.
Stahl had filed an administrative appeal to the common pleas court after the district trustees found him guilty of misconduct, suspended him for 60 days without pay and set a one-year probationary period for him. The board’s action stemmed from an August 2018 emergency run in which Justin Frank, an emergency medical technician, performed an intraosseous procedure on an elderly man but didn’t have the required certification for the procedure.
The board found that Stahl “knew or should have known” that an EMT had performed the I/O insertion that was beyond his certification and failed to report the violation after it became known to him.”
In his complaint to the common pleas court, Stahl argued the board didn’t provide any evidence as to when he became aware of Frank’s action.
But the appeals court ruled that, although disputed, there was evidence to support the board’s finding.
“Accordingly, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in applying the law when it concluded that the board’s decision finding Stahl guilty of misconduct was not unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, and was supported by the preponderance of reliable, probative, substantial evidence in the record,” the appeals court wrote. “The board had before it evidence that Stahl was obligated to supervise firefighters and EMTs at an emergency scene and that he was required to report improper conduct to his superior and to the State Board of Emergency Medical Services and the Northwest Ohio EMS Consortium.”
According to court records, the man went into cardiac arrest shortly after emergency personnel arrived at the residence in Williston and he was moved to the floor where they began resuscitative efforts. A paramedic at the man’s head had difficulty trying to intubate him and Stahl was having problems starting an I/V in the man’s left arm. Only Stahl and the paramedic were certified to perform the I/O procedure, which involved drilling into the patient’s tibia bone to administer medication into the marrow.
The procedure was completed successfully by Frank but the paramedic later listed herself on a required call report as the one who performed it. When it came to the attention of a fire district captain that Frank had performed the procedure he reported it to the district fire chief. The district then retained David Comstock, Jr., an attorney and fire chief of the Western Reserve Joint Fire District in Mahoning County, to investigate the matter and provide recommendations.
Frank reported Stahl ordered him to perform the procedure and because he was following an order of a superior who had the required certification he was excused from acting outside the scope of his certification.
Stahl denied giving an order to Frank and even denied knowing Frank had performed the procedure because he was focused on starting an I/V.
After Comstock issued a report of his findings, the district board of trustees held a hearing, finding Stahl was not guilty of misfeasance as the evidence “did not support a finding Battalion Chief Stahl ordered or knowingly permitted” Frank to perform the procedure.
However, the board ruled the evidence did support a finding he was guilty of nonfeasance for “failing to administratively address the issue of ’’ an EMT-basic performing an I/O medical procedure in violation of certification authority and district protocol.
The common pleas court upheld the board’s decision.
In his appeal, Stahl argued the board based its findings entirely on its conclusion that he should have known an I/O procedure was performed by someone who lacked the certification.
He also argued that had he reviewed the run report it would have shown the paramedic had performed the procedure and he had no reason to believe the report was false; and by the time he learned who performed the procedure the matter was in the hands of his superior.


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