The complaint came as part of a discussion at a recent Mingo County Commission meeting in which Sheriff Hannah shared his concerns about an American Express bill the commission had paid. During that discussion, Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks asked Hannah about the American Express bill.
“Do you have any reason to doubt the legitimacy of the invoice?” Sparks said.
“I do,” Hannah said. “There was several thousand dollars’ worth of gas put on the card for STAT Ambulance. STAT is a corporation.”
“Just because it was an expenditure to STAT doesn’t make it necessarily wrong.” Rutledge said. “I understand why you would say that, but what makes that purchase legitimate is that the Commission has a responsibility to provide ambulance service to citizens.”
“When did we adopt a policy to pay STATs bills?” Hannah asked.
“We didn’t adopt that policy. They were bankrupt,” Commissioner Baisden told the sheriff. “They were on the verge of being shut down. The county would have been without ambulance service. I agreed to buy them fuel until they got on their feet. As purchasing agent, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I want the public to know that since I have been on this commission as purchasing agent, I have done everything in my power to run the commission’s office,” Baisden said.
“This insinuates that I ‘cut a deal’ with STAT,” Baisden said. “I want you to know up front that I was only trying to protect the citizens of the county, to keep STAT running so people would have transportation back and forth to the hospital.”
Hannah said STAT charges outrageous prices for their ambulance service, and he felt the county shouldn’t fund the company. Sparks explained that STAT only gets paid “pennies on the dollar” of what they get charge to Medicaid. He said the ambulance service billed high prices to cover the amount because the percentage the company actually receives of the amount they bill is actually as low as 25 percent.
Hannah suggested considering other ambulance services whose charges might be more reasonable. “It’s the free enterprise system.” Hannah said.
Commissioner Smith said the county had considered using other services, but that STAT was the only ambulance service that would cover the entire area, even isolated parts of the county.
“We did what we felt was best for the people of the county, to subsidize some fuel,” Baisden said. “We were only trying to protect the people of Mingo County.”