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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sunstar Paramedics chief urges employees to vote for Susan Latvala



CLEARWATER -- Mark Postma, the man who oversees Pinellas County's ambulance service, has written a memo urging employees to vote for Susan Latvala in tomorrow's election.

Latvala, he says, is more likely to retain Paramedics Plus, a.k.a. Sunstar Paramedics, to transport patients to the hospital. Her challenger, Bob Hackworth, has been more open to the idea of allowing firefighters to transport patients. Paramedics Plus is the company the county contracts with to provide ambulance transport.

In the Oct. 28 memo, written on Sunstar Paramedics letterhead, Postma refers to the recent focus on Pinellas County's emergency medical services system. County officials are waiting for the results of a $130,000 study into possible ways to make the system more cost efficient. But, even before the study is finished, firefighters have started lobbying for a change that would allow them, instead of Sunstar, to transport patients.

If such a change is made, the loss to Sunstar Paramedics could be in the millions. And Postma, the chief operating officer, has done his best to see that his company retains the contract by helping re-elect commissioners he believes will retain the contract.

Earlier this year, for example, he donated $500 to Latvala's campaign. And his memo is clear about which candidate he sees benefiting Paramedics Plus.

"Unfortunately, for Bob Hackworth, Sunstar isn't one of his options. On multiple occasions he had made references to the dual-response EMS system here in Pinellas County and how Sunstar Paramedics should be eliminated," Postma wrote. He added, "I would encourage you to vote for Susan Latvala, who has supported Sunstar Paramedics during her 10 years as a county commissioner."

Postma said he has nothing against Hackworth but is only going by media reports about his positions. Postma said he sees nothing wrong in sending out the e-mail.

"“I send memos to my staff about all sorts of different issues," Postma said. His employees have not objected, but Postma said, “I have received encouragement from most of our employees.”

Hackworth said he has not advocated that Sunstar Paramedics be eliminated.

The memo “smacks of pay-for-play and special influence," Hackworth said. “It’s not appropriate to have the appearance of any special interest in your campaign.”

Latvala could not be reached for comment.

Anne Lindberg, Times staff writer





[Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 2:50pm]


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