The Baltimore City Fire Academy may be in danger of losing its accreditation -- but not over the recent investigation into cheating allegations, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
On Wednesday, a source told WBAL-TV 11 News I-Team reporter David Collins that the academy may lose accreditation over the Fire Department's failure to address issues discovered in a routine state audit last year.
Collins said the source called the cheating allegation a smokescreen to cover up a number of problems now under a microscope at the fire academy. The training program was suspended last Tuesday pending the outcome of an investigation. All of the academy's EMS training instructors were put on administrative leave the next day.
In March 2010, a routine yearly audit by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems discovered discrepancies in record-keeping at the fire academy.
MIEMSS, the state agency that certifies paramedics and emergency medical technicians, put the fire academy on what's called a provisional status, which allows the academy to operate for a year until the discrepancies were addressed, or face the possibility of losing accreditation. Fire academy officials did not respond to the audit.
In the past year, MIEMSS received a number of other complaints about the academy. According to the source, the complaints include allegations that:
- As many as five instructors submitted and got paid for overtime hours they didn't work.
- Uncertified instructors continued to teach classes.
- Two cadets were allowed to repeat tests more than twice, which violates Fire Department policy.
- Supervisors were reported to have bullied subordinates.
According to the source, the lack of a response to the audit -- coupled with a slew of new complaints -- prompted MIEMSS to send an ultimatum letter to Baltimore City Fire Chief James Clack, demanding that he respond to the agency's concerns by Friday or the academy could lose its accreditation, Collins said. Clack told the 11 News I-Team that he will respond by the deadline.
Sources: 'Confidential' Document Contained Trauma Scenario
Several sources have provided new information regarding the June 14 cheating incident, saying the allegations stem from the discovery of a piece of paper found in an EMS classroom that was stamped "Confidential 2006 Draft."
Collins said the document had one trauma scenario -- a situation similar to testing material -- and was found prior to the administration of an exam. Investigators with the city Fire Marshal's Office questioned academy employees about the document.
The source said an academy instructor singled out early in the probe -- who is also a contractual employee with MIEMMS -- is being used as a scapegoat. The instructor is accused of ordering a fellow instructor with the same rank to type up test answers and distribute them to cadets.
The source called that accusation untrue and said the city Fire Marshal's Office is examining the employee's computer in an effort to verify the claim.
The source said the instructor under scrutiny signed their name to the test as required because of their rank. The source said the person was not in the room when the paper displaying "Confidential 2006 Draft" was discovered or when the test was given.
Fallout Leads To Change In Command
On Tuesday, Collins reported that the Fire Department replaced Lloyd Carter as chief of the fire academy. Carter was reassigned to lead recruitment efforts.
Investigators have said they believe EMS test answers were provided to as many as 19 fire academy students.
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