Letters From the Issue of Thursday, December 22, 2005

State of Emergency

Better late than never: Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your recent "Ambulance Chasers" article (Sarah Fenske, October 27). Ms. Fenske's story appears, in large part, to be based on innuendoes, half-truths and distortions coming from Southwest Ambulance's management and union.

Until now, Rural-Metro/Southwest has had a monopolistic stranglehold on the private 911 ambulance business in Maricopa County. In January of this year, Bob Ramsey and I purchased majority interest in Professional Medical Transport ambulance company (PMT). We are competing head-to-head with Rural-Metro/Southwest, and they have resorted to smear campaigns against us and our company.

Competing in Scottsdale, PMT was rated superior to Southwest in 31 of 35 categories and unanimously awarded the 911 ambulance contract. We will begin providing 911 ambulance service for half of Chandler this month.

The numerous inaccuracies and misinterpretations in Fenske's article must be clarified. Among them, Southwest Ambulance employees represented by Local I-60 are not now, never have been and never will be members of the union of which I was president for more than 20 years, United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association, Local 493, IAFF.

In 1994, I served as a paid trustee for Southwest Ambulance's Employee Stock Ownership Program. (I was also a fund manager for three of the state's largest pension funds.) During my tenure, employees made significant gains in their plan.

In 1995, Ramsey and I began efforts to start a billing company for the Dallas Fire Department's emergency ambulance service. This was done with full knowledge of my union's executive board, the Phoenix and Dallas fire chiefs, and with full support from Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Ray Reed and his officers. We increased ambulance billing revenue to the Dallas Fire Department and City of Dallas by more than 80 percent.

In June 1997, Ramsey sold Southwest Ambulance, his Phoenix billing company and our Dallas billing company to Rural Metro Corporation. At no time did I have ownership in Southwest Ambulance or the billing company that performed billing for either Southwest or the City of Phoenix.

I stepped down as president of the firefighters' union in 1998 and retired from the Phoenix Fire Department in January 1999.

Right after Bob Ramsey and I purchased PMT, Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona President Brian Tobin arranged a meeting between me and I-60's union officers. I expressed my desire for them to organize our company, guaranteeing the jobs of their members and agreeing to recognize their union as the bargaining agent for our employees. Unfortunately, they refused. I made another request in June. Again, they refused. In each case, the union leadership turned their backs on my offer. Their priorities were focused on protecting their employer instead of making sure their members' jobs would be secure.

I am a former president of the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association. I have dedicated my life to helping the working men and women of Arizona. That has not changed now that I am an owner in PMT, nor will it ever. Our competition against Rural-Metro's Southwest Ambulance will result in a higher level of emergency transportation service to the citizens in the cities where we compete.
Pat Cantelme, CEO, PMT 911 Emergency Services

Editor's note: New Times stands by the facts in Sarah Fenske's "Ambulance Chasers" story.

This Just In

Internal fortitude: I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your latest article on the fiasco in Colorado City ("Crash Course," John Dougherty, December 8). It's funny how we never hear about this issue on local TV news.

The news channels must be too busy with animal stories or the ever-so-important "Dirty Dining" reports. Why aren't they covering this issue regarding Mormon polygamists? Do Mormons have high connections at the news stations?

This is big news, and it should be reported by all the media! My only source on this topic has been your paper, so I just wanted to say thanks for having the internal fortitude to cover it so well.
Johnny Parsons, Tempe

The Meth Plague

Behind the times: The main thing I took away from your methamphetamine series "The Perfect Drug" -- especially "Bad Medicine" (Sarah Fenske, December 8) -- was that the authorities in this state are a bunch of dumb-asses.

It's just like the kind of fools we elect in Arizona to be so drastically behind the times. That is, to think that putting cold remedies behind the counters is going to solve the meth problem. End of story. Problem solved.

Aren't these law enforcement experts supposed to know what's going on?! I find it funny that Governor Janet Napolitano, the former state Attorney General of Arizona, thinks she has been on top of the problem all along ("Methology Redux," December 15) when she apparently had to read it in New Times that supplies of meth are coming in from Mexico ("The New Boss," Joe Watson and Robert Nelson, November 3).