Mikel Kane vs. the Medical Director
ATCEMS division chief suspended, demoted for waging war against MD
It shouldn't come as any surprise that last Thursday we learned more about the three-day suspension of an Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services communications medic (for faking illness so that she could attend a Renaissance fair) than we did about the 15-day suspension of Division Chief Mikel Kane. The 13-year veteran [see below], who also accepted (and reportedly "requested") a demotion to district commander during the process, was shelved for three working weeks for three violations of departmental policy, pertaining to Individual Responsibilities, Responsibility to the Department, and Responsibility to Coworkers.
If you can read between the lines of those three violations to discern what exactly Kane did, you're a more skilled interpreter of bureaucratic vagueness than I. Chief Ernie Rodriguez maintains the right to withhold or disclose any details of a disciplining that he so chooses, but there exists little precedent for signing off on such a short memo – the least descriptive I have ever seen during my time at this paper – and Rodriguez did not respond to requests for comment on why the disciplinary memo he wrote for Kane was so thin.
Rather than provide an explanation of what Kane did, ATCEMS chose to divulge details of the findings against him after I filed a public information request for any records relating to the Office of Professional Conduct's investigation, and did so via a 260-page document dump that arrived in my inbox at 5:12pm on Wednesday night. (No time for a Thursday paper's editor to comb through newly received files.) There's a lot that's been redacted – ATCEMS's Public Information Commander Mike Benavides told me on Monday that his team would need to scrub the records of "unsubstantiated information" – and about 120 pages are transcripts from OPC interviews with potential witnesses. But a cursory glance makes clear that Kane's discipline extends from a longstanding personal beef he had with the county's Medical Director Mark Escott and Deputy Medical Director Jason Pickett (including divulging confidential information about them to ATCEMS employees), and because, during one of the bombing incidents (the tripwire incident in Southwest Austin) this spring, he issued an unlawful order to ATCEMS Commander Josh Todd, telling Todd to not contact on-line medical control (i.e., Escott and Pickett) for transport decisions, and instead to make the decision on his own. "We don't need anything from those asshats. It's an operational choice where we take patients," is what Todd told Escott that Kane had told him.
We'll have more on the findings against Kane in the next few weeks, but should note this week that this isn't the first time this year that a high-ranking member of Ernie Rodriguez's staff has gone and gotten himself into trouble. It was only in February that Assistant Chief James Hawley was allowed to retire rather than face discipline (and maybe more) for separate incidents in which he either physically or verbally harassed two female colleagues. We didn't learn about that one until March; the investigations into his conduct had been aborted when Rodriguez granted Hawley retirement ( "Something Rotten at EMS," March 9). And then there's Jasper Brown, Rodriguez's chief of staff, who bent the language of departmental policy to avoid a drug test back in January ("What Drug Test?" May 11).
Ed. note: Kane was most recently hired by ATCEMS in October of 2005, but he worked at ATCEMS for a period of time in the Eighties, making him more than a 13-year veteran.