EMSA's CEO speaks out on audit, alleged overspending

STROUD, Okla. - One month after an audit accused EMSA leaders of lavish overspending, its CEO defended his choices.

In a five hour meeting in Stroud Wednesday, EMSA board members went through the audit line by line. They discussed mistakes made and policy changes that could improve the agency.

Questions about EMSA's billing practices led to a state audit released in January. The audit didn't find any intentional billing errors, but it did find questionable spending by EMSA leaders.

SEE THE AUDIT (http://bit.ly/EMSAaudit)

For the first time since the audit's release, EMSA's CEO Steve Williamson spoke out at an open board meeting.

"I've already said there's been some judgment calls in error. But systemically the system isn't broken; it certainly isn't corrupted," Williamson said.

Williamson apologized for losing the public's trust. But he also defended some of his expenses.

"If there's an issue about the overall management of certain aspects, that's on my plate," he said.

Williamson talked about expenses like two spa bills for employees totaling over $400 each. He said he bought those spa trips himself, after one of the employees met the company's accreditation goals.

The audit also highlighted $28,000 spent on flowers over three years. For that bill, Williamson insisted the money wasn't solely spent on flower arrangements. Williamson says both EMSA offices rent plants.

"It's about $280 a month, and it's about $380 a month in Tulsa. And we can of course cancel that at any time," Williamson said.

Williamson says the rest of the money spent on flowers went to arrangements sent to sick employees or police and fire graduations.

Board members say they want more transparency for themselves and the public.

"There's a lack of documentation. There's a lack of ... travel reimbursements that didn't explain the purpose of the trip," said Oklahoma City Councilor and board member Dr. Ed Shadid.

EMSA will next look into new policies, like approving any purchases over $25,000. Board members will also consider banning donations and ceasing reimbursement with Paramedics Plus.

READ: 'EMSA board discusses budget procedure changes'  (http://bit.ly/XHzaJg)

EMSA board members also plan to form new committees to deal with financial oversight and transparency.

2NEWS was told EMSA board members would not answer questions from journalists Wednesday, because they're representing a "united voice" through their public meetings. 

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