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Ambulance-driving EMT fired after three off-duty drunken driving arrests


Ambulance-driving EMT fired after three off-duty drunken driving arrests

Mar 15, 2023 | 2:05 pm ET
By Clark Kauffman
Ambulance-driving EMT fired after three off-duty drunken driving arrests
An Iowa emergency medical technician who drives ambulances, fired for a history of drunken driving arrests is not entitled to unemployment benefits. (Stock photo via Canva)

An Iowa emergency medical technician who drove ambulances, fired for a history of drunken driving arrests, is not entitled to unemployment benefits, a state fact-finder has ruled.

Despite two drunken-driving convictions and one recent drunken driving arrest, Derek Ealy’s state license as an emergency medical services provider remains in good standing with no history of any public disciplinary action, according to the Iowa Bureau of Emergency and Trauma Services.

State records show that Ealy, 39, of Keystone, was working as a full-time EMT for North Benton Ambulance Service from August 2022 until his firing in November 2022.

State unemployment records indicate that as part of his EMT duties, Ealy was required to drive an ambulance. At the time he was hired, Ealy had at least two drunken driving convictions on his record, with the most recent case dating back to 2006.

On Nov. 19, 2022, Ealy was involved in a serious, off-duty car accident and was unable to report for work the next day as scheduled because he was hospitalized and awaiting surgery. The accident eventually resulted in charges of drunken driving, with police alleging his blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit for driving. A plea hearing in that case is scheduled for March 23.

A few days after the accident, Ealy posted a message on his public Facebook page, indicating he was an alcoholic and was facing serious financial issues related to his medical care.  As part of that post, Ealy made note of his EMS duties and solicited donations to assist with his expenses.

On Nov. 26, the ambulance service fired Ealy, citing the recent accident and the Facebook post as violations of work rules. The service also cited Ealy’s past OWI convictions.

A state fact-finder subsequently denied Ealy’s application for unemployment benefits, stating that he had been discharged for knowingly violating the employer’s rules. An administrative law judge recently affirmed that decision, finding that Ealy hadn’t filed his appeal in a timely fashion.

Ealy said Wednesday that while his employer claimed he hadn’t reported his previous drunken driving convictions when he was hired, he had applied for the job through Facebook and had never been asked to fill out a formal application that asked about any past arrests.

The Iowa Bureau of Emergency and Trauma Services’ database of disciplinary actions indicates Ealy’s license is currently active with no history of any public disciplinary action. Ealy said the bureau is aware of his most recent arrest and he remains authorized to work as an EMS provider although his driving privileges are restricted by the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Ealy is the former president of the Benton County EMS Association and has served as the director of the Keystone First Responders.

“I intend to continue with EMS,” he told the Iowa Capital Dispatch. “I have molded my wife and my best friend into EMTs and firefighters and so this is my family legacy.”

Other unemployment cases

Other Iowans whose unemployment cases were recently decided include:

Claudia McKim, who worked as a certified medical assistant for two years at Hamilton County Public Hospital until she was fired in December 2022. In May 2022, McKim was allegedly tasked with giving a vaccine to a child and it was later discovered she had administered only the fluid used for diluting purposes and had not provided any of the vaccine, according to state records.

A few months later, in September 2022, she was accused of mistakenly giving a 12-month-old child a double dose of multiple vaccines. As a result, the child’s health will have to be monitored for the next 17 years, hospital officials alleged. In December 2022, McKim allegedly gave an adult dose of a hepatitis vaccine to a child. She was denied unemployment benefits.

Seana Godbold, who worked for the Iowa Department of Transportation from 2013 through July 2022, most recently as a public services manager. She was fired after a lengthy investigation into alleged violations of equal protection and sexual harassment policies.

The investigation stemmed from complaints made by several of her subordinates who alleged Godbold had made inappropriate comments about workers’ age, perceived disabilities and religion. One complaint was tied to her behavior toward a younger male intern and comments she had reportedly made regarding her personal sex life. State records indicate that at her unemployment hearing, Godbold didn’t dispute the accusations but argued she should have been warned rather than fired. She was denied unemployment benefits.