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EBR Communications Board calls out city-parish for lack of communication

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BATON ROUGE- The East Baton Rouge Parish Communications District Board of Commissioners called out the city-parish Tuesday afternoon for a lack of communication that makes it tough for them to interpret numbers and make informed decisions.

"What the city-parish has given us to this point when it comes to the budget is Greek," Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, Communications Board Chairman said at the meeting. "We have not been able to put our finger on this... oh yeah, that's how much we spent."

Those statements made in the meeting come one week after the WBRZ Investigative Unit aired a report that questioned overtime costs for EMS dispatchers working in the 911 call center. An attorney representing the board of commissioners said they pay the bills but have no say-so in how much overtime is worked, scheduling or discipline. The report showed last year there was $426,000 spent on overtime for EMS employees. When the report aired, EMS told WBRZ they were fully staffed.

Tuesday, we learned they were not fully staffed last year. There were two open positions in the 911 call center and may have been other openings too.

"We had a least two that I'm aware of and even more vacant," interim EMS director, Chad Guillot said. "You allow one person off on regular leave, you're short and having to cover those spots."

During the meeting, verbal bombs were hurled inside EMS headquarters related to the overtime costs.

"Someone initiated this whole deal to keep the riff going," Baker Mayor and Commissioner Darnell Waites said.

Guillot was concerned that an attorney representing the Board did an interview about the concerning overtime figures.

"I get upset about it because I would have appreciated being consulted first," Guillot said. "Before making allegations that we were doing something wrong with the overtime."

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux fired back at Guillot.

"It goes back to this Chad, you didn't notify us of Chris' request for the public records," Gautreaux said.

At issue was the overtime paid to employees working in the call center. The top earners volunteered to work extra shifts from people who were out sick or on federally protected leave. The three top earners made almost $37,000, $36,000 and $27,000 respectively.  Despite EMS saying there was no shortage of employees last year, Tuesday they changed their response.

"We had at least two that I'm aware of, and even more vacant," Guillot said. "You allow one person off on regular leave, you're short and having to cover those spots."

Guillot said according to his math, the overtime is cheaper. If additional employees had to be hired to staff the communications center, taxpayers would have to shell out an additional $1.2 million per year.

Meanwhile, another big concern at the meeting involved problems with the parish's new computer-aided dispatch system of CAD system. It should have been implemented years ago, but board members said a lack of communication is also to blame. Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel was on hand for today's meeting and assured the board members there won't be communications breakdowns in the future.


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