But the 2003 negotiations could come back to haunt Shields. Chris Medrea is a former official with the Professional Firefighters of Arizona, the state organization associated with Shields' union. (Two weeks ago, Medrea retired from his job as a Mesa fire captain.)

In the last year, Medrea has written letters that have been widely distributed to union membership, calling out Shields for failing to support the Southwest Ambulance employees who are his union brothers. He's accused Shields of supporting his friend, Cantelme, instead. (Shields, who has angrily contested Medrea's allegations, did not return calls for comment.)

Despite Hart's assertions, Cantelme says he never discussed his plans for the Phoenix market with his friend Shields. He argues that the fact that Hart met with Shields, and Shields saw the preliminary statement of terms about the plan to outsource Phoenix ambulance service, shouldn't be a black mark against Shields. "It's not like it was secret, or separate from what was going on with the Phoenix Fire Department," he says.

But Medrea disagrees. "You can't blame Pat Cantelme for going for this work — he's a 10-year-old memory," he says. "But Billy Shields was the union president. He had knowledge this was going on. How do you stand idly by when you know something like this is being discussed? That seems pretty anti-union to me."

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