Longtime Northwest EMS Chief Brian Petrilla is out of a job and confusion remains among many as to why or how it happened.
Officials with Northwest EMS, including their board president Rick Brown and board attorney John Atwood would only confirm that Petrilla no longer worked for Northwest EMS, while several sources have told the Tribune that Petrilla was fired.
Petrilla is remaining silent on the issue at the moment, but a couple of people talked to the Tribune anonymously, out of fear that their jobs could be in jeopardy if they spoke on the record.
"He was fired," said one source. "I was there when it happened. They asked him to resign and he said no."
The source went on to say that they did not know why Petrilla was fired and that Northwest officials did not give him a chance to defend himself.
"It's not right," the source said. "Brian is the most dedicated person he could be in that job."
Another source also stated that Petrilla was fired and that Northwest EMS officials did not notify any other officials in town, until several days later.
The official word from Northwest EMS board members, however, is that Petrilla moved on to pursue other interests.
"All I can tell you is that Brian has moved on to pursue other opportunities and we wish him well," Brown said. "We have a policy not to discuss personnel issues."
Atwood said that a big reason that officials can't talk specifics is because there is an ongoing internal investigation.
"It's an ongoing internal investigation on some other issues," he said. "I can't tell you who did what to who yet because I haven't received that paperwork."
At first Atwood told the Tribune that Petrilla was terminated, but then stated he misspoke.
"What I should have said was that his relationship with the department was terminated," he said.
When asked via email whether he could clarify whether Petrilla resigned or was fired before last Friday afternoon, he sent a written reply to the Tribune stating that it would not be the board's place to reveal that information.
"I understand that you already have two sources that have told you he was terminated," Atwood wrote. "It would be irresponsible of me or the department to make any other comment on that. Let's just say that any and all relationships between Brian and the department have terminated and I personally wish him all the luck in his future endeavors."
Complicating matters is the fact the members of the board for Emergency Services District (ESD) 8, still do not know exactly what occurred.
"We have some concerns," said ESD 8 attorney Howard Katz. "Brian was the face of Northwest EMS for a long time and we want to be sure that service is not affected. If they want to give us that information, well that is up to them and their lawyer."
ESD 8 provides taxpayer funds to Northwest EMS, which is a private non-profit company. The taxpayer funds, however, do not compromise all of the Northwest EMS budget, making it only partially subject to open government and public information laws. However, the contract between the two agencies specifically calls for Northwest EMS to "conduct its activities in accordance with all current statutes, rules and regulation of any and all governmental bodies."
Brown said that Northwest EMS is continuing with normal operations and that Terry Rogers, a captain with the department, has taken over the reins as acting chief.
"Terry Rogers is the point man on an interim basis and we are just trying to encourage all the employees to move on with normal operations," Brown said.
The Tribune has sent a public information request to Northwest EMS asking for all correspondence relating to the termination or resignation of Petrilla, as well as any records from an open or closed board session where Petrilla's employment was discussed. Atwood has indicated that he will forward that request to the Texas Attorney General's office for an opinion, however he did provide the Tribune with Petrilla's contract.
That contract, which is dated from September of 2002, states that Petrilla is an at-will employee and can be terminated for any reason at any time. It also states that Petrilla will receive a severance package equal to three months pay, for every year employed under that contract. Petrilla's most recent salary was a little more than $82,000 in 2012, according to Atwood.