Humphrey Labels Surprise Move As Retaliation For Speaking Up
Cordell's ambulance service is in a state of turmoil following Monday's lively city council meeting and the subsequent termination of the city's EMS director.
In a surprise move Wednesday, July 22, Cordell Mayor Jerry Beech and City Administrator J.C. Moser fired the Cordell EMS Director, Devin Humphrey. During the termination meeting Wednesday morning, Beech told Humphrey he was terminated for insubordination and gross misconduct, a charge stemming from Humphrey's remarks at Monday's city council meeting.
During the council meeting, at which he was one of just three citizens allowed by the mayor to speak on the topic of possibly disbanding Cordell EMS and outsourcing the city's ambulance service to a private company, Humphrey provided statistics about the ambulance service's budget and response times to the council. He also questioned the mayor as to why the council was considering the move, given that no complaints or issues had been brought to his attention.
When asked, by Humphrey, when the idea of outsourcing ambulance service came up, Beech told him it'd been under consideration since he first assumed office in April 2019. At that point Humphrey challenged the mayor, recounting a February 2020 conversation between the two in which Beech had reportedly told Humphrey that everything was fine with the EMS department and outsourcing wasn't being considered. At that point, citizens attending the meeting broke out with calls of "liar" and "snake" directed toward Beech.
During the termination meeting, Beech said they began to look at outsourcing after Humphrey's August 2019 plane crash, telling him the city didn't know if he was coming back. He then told him that he didn't appreciate being called a liar, and said that when he and Humphrey spoke in February 2020 that the city wasn't looking at an alternative provider.
Beech, during Wednesday's meeting with Humphrey and Moser, accused Humphrey of lying and giving out incorrect information regarding the ambulance service's numbers.
"That's just really gross just insubordination," Beech said. "I mean you didn't come to us, you didn't talk to us, you're just throwing this crap out, and it was really kind of just gross misconduct on your part. And the heckler in the back, I don't know who that was but I'll find out."
He went on to tell Humphrey that his comments showed "zero respect" for anyone at the meeting and represented a "bad reflection" on the city.
Humphrey said the move was an act of retaliation by the mayor because he spoke in opposition to the mayor's desire to outsource the EMS department.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this is in retaliation for me standing up and exercising my civil liberties," he said.
Humphrey added that at no time in his three years as EMS director has he been warned or counseled about inadequate job performance, neither verbally nor in writing.
Cordell Fire Chief Seth Slaughterback, who was not present at the termination meeting, said he knows of no performance-related issues with Humphrey.
"He's been doing an excellent job," he said. "I don't know what the problem is."
Humphrey speculated the move may be part of the mayor's plan to outsource the ambulance service, as he had received calls and texts from several EMS and fire crew members who were considering quitting in the wake of Beech's action.
"If everyone leaves Beech gets what he wants," Humphrey said. "He can say he doesn't have a choice but to outsource the ambulance and get rid of the department."
Emails sent to Beech and Moser requesting comment on the decision to fire Humphrey were unanswered as of press time.
**Editor's note: this a developing story and will be updated as more information is uncovered.