City review of EMSA looks to future
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor
Thursday, August 23, 2012
8/23/12 at 7:07 AM
Read past stories and view documents related to the Tulsa World’s investigation of EMSA’s billing and spending practices.
A city review of EMSA recommends the agency create a chief operating officer and make a plan of succession for future leadership.
A city of Tulsa consultant on Wednesday presented EMSA board members with that and other key findings from an extensive review of the agency's operations. The review by the city's Management Review Office included interviews with many employees and more than 60 documents and sets of data, said Michael Brink, a contract employee for the city of Tulsa.
The Emergency Medical Services Authority is a government agency that supervises a contractor providing medical service to more than 1 million people in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and surrounding cities.
The agency has been named in a lawsuit seeking class-action status that claims it wrongfully sued citizens taking part in the city's utility fee program. An investigative audit by the State Auditor and Inspector's Office is also set to begin next month, following a Tulsa World investigation.
CEO Steve Williamson said EMSA has already addressed 18 of the review's 50 findings.
"We looked at this as a very positive experience, having a fresh set of eyes looking at things," he told board members during Wednesday's meeting.
Brink said the review found that EMSA would benefit from creating a chief operating officer position. Currently, Williamson makes the majority of EMSA's key decisions, though Chief Financial Officer Kent Torrence keeps track of financial issues.
"It's just a big job for one person," Brink told board members. "Steve's obviously an enormously talented guy, but that stretches anybody thin."
Board member Clay Bird said he was more concerned about the review's finding that "there hasn't been any succession planning going on." The review states no plan is in place in case Williamson, who has been with EMSA since its inception in 1978, leaves or is unable to serve.
EMSA's written response states: "Management agrees with this finding and will present to the Board of Trustees its suggestions."
Brink also noted that EMSA has no contract or purchasing manager.
The review found that of nine purchases involving $50,000 or more in 2011, at least six were designated "sole source" contracts. EMSA's contract with its law firm, Works and Lentz, has not been bid since 1989, it states.
"Increasing the amount of competitive procurement we think would benefit EMSA," Brink said.
EMSA has changed some policies relating to bidding, requiring three price quotes for items over $2,500 and formal bidding for purchases over $25,000.
In a written response, EMSA states: "The purchasing policy has been followed when quotes or competitive bidding is indicated, but there are a few vendors whose services have been utilized for a considerable amount of time that will be quoted or bid more often. The vendor listing will be scrutinized and prioritized by amount to identify goods or services that have not been quoted in some time and/or where potential savings could be indicated."
The review made numerous findings about a lack of security involving credit card information. Brink said those issues were brought to EMSA's attention immediately.
EMSA's written report states that it is reviewing security in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices.
Bird asked Williamson to develop a timeline showing board members how and when EMSA will address the review's findings.
EMSA agrees with 27 of the findings, partially agrees with 12 and disagrees with 11, Brink said.
Board member Phil Lakin said the review was helpful to the board and to EMSA.
"I think a bunch of things have surfaced. ... We will slowly eat the elephant, if you will, and make some great strides forward," Lakin said.
Original Print Headline: City review of EMSA looks to future
Ziva Branstetter 918-581-8306
The entrances of the EMSA headquarters in Tulsa. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Steve Williamson, CEO of EMSA, meets with the Tulsa City Council earlier this year. A review recommends creation of a plan of succession for the agency's future. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file