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Rural Metro under fire in Western New York. Claims it failed to report ambulance crew arsonists & investigation of billing practices.

Read story on how Rural Metro handled ambulance crew arsonists

Read story on Rural Metro billing practices

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The Buffalo News has spent the last two days providing a critical look at the operations of Rural Metro in Western New York. Today's story is about the 2009 case where an ambulance crew was convicted of a pair of arsons and suspected of others.

Reporters Dan Herbeck and Matthew Spina make a case, after talking to co-workers of the arsonists and fire investigators, that Rural Metro did not take information it had to the office of the Buffalo Fire Marshal.

According to the article, Rural Metro employees became suspicious about the pair because of text messages and other clues and reported the concerns to management. The company says it did its own six-day investigation and reported the findings to the Buffalo Fire Department. But now-retired Lt. Salvatore Colangelo, who was in charge of the Buffalo Fire Marshal's Office, says he doesn't recall any such contact:

"We investigated this thoroughly," said John M. Rusinski, the company's risk manager, who also is a volunteer firefighter in West Seneca and who recently joined the Town Board. "It was a he-said, she-said. … We did our due diligence," he insisted.

Rusinski said he called the Buffalo Fire Department on May 18, 2009, to make officials there aware of the suspicions and his inconclusive findings.

But by that date, the Buffalo Fire Marshal's Office already had begun its own investigation after receiving a tip about the Rural/Metro EMTs from another Rural/Metro ambulance worker, according to the man who headed the office at the time, now-retired Lt. Salvatore Colangelo.

In yesterday's paper, reporter Spina looked at claims from employees and former employees that Rural Metro in Western New York is being investigated by federal officials for its billing practices. Rural Metro is facing similar scrutiny elsewhere in the country.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • AEMT

    Not saying that this article is wrong.  But this stunning expose is written after the Rural/Metro allied County Executive is voted out of office and the new County Executive re-appointed a rival EMS executive as County Director of Emergency Services.  This is purely a political piece and these reporters should have put some extra effort in to make it seem fair and impartial.  They had a good story and ruined it buy loading it with anonymous sources and disgruntled ex-employees.  As to the reported arson story, come on Buffalo News.  That happened a couple years ago.  All of these allegations about a coverup were reported on then. 

    • AEMT

      That should read 'appointed' instead of 're-appointed'.

  • i know everything

    And rma mngt wonders why their employees are jumping ship to work for other agencies. That’s why corporate health care will never beat home town first responders who care more about their family and neighbors in their community than making a few extra bucks.

  • fyrecapt

    So Mr. Rusinski, why are you, an ambulance company risk manager, doing the investigation of potential arson fires?? Isnt that the job of FIRE INVESTIGATORS??
    Sounds like a lot of shannigans going on, specially if the two were convicted.

  • Former Chief

    So, when did Rural/Metro management, or any other private management for that matter, become law enforcement officers?  FAIL.  When a crime is reported, you must notify the appropriate authority.  Rural/Metro management could be charged with obstructing justice if they didn't.  And apparently, they didn't in a timely manner.  Sounds to me like they were covering for friends.

  • JTfrom PA

    Lately, there has been more and more articles about these "for-profit" EMS agencies.  I have a few friends who work for different company's, and they all they that they are all corrupt!!! I'm not a fan of Gov't getting into everything, but this is an example where some outside influence needs to happen. Recently it's all the expose's on major medical fraud with these companies, that is costing us big time $$.

  • mark

    JT says "I have a few friends who work for different company's, and they all they that they are all corrupt!!!"
    Huh? Really? English as a second language?
    I have and still do know a lot of medics who work for privatefor profit ambo companies, actually, all of our ALS providers are private, and none of them are "corrupt".
    Or "and they all they that they are all corrupt" either.
    So, assuming this is true, by default this makes every firemen and every cop corrupt or terrrible because some abuse their power, are arsonists, embezzlers, etc.
    If you want to use that broad brush to talk about politicians, then we can agree, but not much else.

    • CHAOS

      I was waiting for him to roll into the "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" speech.
      I think he was trying for the "private businesses are corrupt, so public entities aren't" angle.  And, as we all know from Dave's regular stories on here, it doesn't quite work out that way.

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