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Don’t run. Don’t hide. Words to live by when you are a public official who has to deal with bad news on your watch. It’s very rare you will make the situation better by forcing reporters to do an ambush interview and then running away from them on camera. And probably more important than all of this, is finding a way to deal directly with a citizen who believes they have been wronged by your agency, especially one who has lost a loved one.
The man in the picture is Collier County, Florida EMS Chief Walter Kopka. He is trying to get away from a TV reporter outside a public meeting. Kopka has been dealing with the fallout from a delayed ambulance response in December when Charles Minard’s son died. Minard wants some answers and doesn’t think he is getting them. WFTX-TV reporter Matt Grant has also been trying to get answers. On Wednesday they both confronted Kopka at a public meeting and it wasn’t their first time. Click here to see the results. They aren’t pretty.
The only bright spot comes near the end when Capt. Andrea Schultz with the East Naples Fire Rescue District decides to step in and do the right thing. We certainly don’t know all the ins and outs of this story other than what WFTX-TV is reporting. But we do know who looks responsive to Mr. Minard, the TV reporter and ultimately the public and who doesn’t.
We also know that this story has been going on for almost five months with report after report. In the story before this, Walter Kopka called police to get Minard and Grant removed from the property. Here are links to the previous coverage:
- Inconsistent EMS record keeping in Collier County?
- Naples dad won’t give up quest to get to the bottom of an ambulance delay
- Update: Naples man says EMS delay led to son’s death
- Naples father protests county over EMS delay
- Patient in 40 min. Collier ambulance delay speaks out
- County manager finally responds to EMS delays
- Sen. president calls for change after Collier EMS delay
- Collier ambulance delayed 40 minutes in 2010
- County manger investigating EMS delay
There are many factors that could be behind the manner in which Walter Kopka is responding to this incident. Kopka could be under orders by a boss or legal counsel not to talk. It could be he is fed up with the father and the reporter. It could be ego and pride. But when bad stuff happens, until you admit mistakes were made, apologize, explain those mistakes and how they will be corrected to both the victims and the public, it isn’t likely you or your organization will be able to finally look at the bad news in the rear view mirror.