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Larsen resuscitated in split vote

Staff writers

County commissioners on Tuesday reinstated a Peabody paramedic at the center of controversy in recent months.

Larry Larsen was originally fired by the commission in October without any explanation for the action.

After an executive session that lasted over 25 minutes and included Larsen, commissioners, and clerk Tina Spencer, commissioners approved Larsen’s return 2-1, with Commissioner Dan Holub voting against.

“This is a situation that Marion County is working on to improve,” Dallke said. “We are putting a person back to work that can serve a community and a county whenever needed. That’s just a short story of it and we will go on from there.”

Holub declined comment after the meeting.

Reached via e-mail, Commissioner Lori Lalouette shed some light on why she voted for Larsen’s reinstatement.

“I had to focus on Marion County and the primary goal of EMS which is to focus on  patient care and saving lives,” she said. “In my mind, the cost of a human life is too great not to have given Larry a second chance, especially when he demonstrated his dedication and passion to helping others by asking for the opportunity to come back.”

Lalouette acknowledged the decision could be controversial.

“I know there are many people that will not be happy with the decision I made,” she said. “I am concerned about alienating other crew members and concerned of the possibilities others will quit. You will never make everybody happy, but I have to make the best decision I can for the county overall and for the residents.”

Larsen’s firing also generated controversy. In November, discussion of Larsen’s termination during an open public meeting led to allegations by then-EMS director Brandy McCarty of numerous wrongdoings by Larsen, including endangering a patient and sexual harassment. Additionally, McCarty herself resigned in November.

Several people, primarily Peabody EMS personnel and residents, appeared at commission meetings to voice concerns over Larsen’s dismissal.

One of them was Peabody resident Rodger Charles, who voiced his disagreement with the way the commission had handled the situation.

In December, commissioners were scheduled to make a decision on the potential reinstatement of Larsen. Instead, they delayed action to consult with a Wichita attorney after getting a letter that was mentioned but not read during the meeting. A Kansas Open Records Act request by the Marion County Record for a copy of the letter was denied.

Charles, contacted Tuesday, said he was glad to see the decision and that commissioners had dragged the matter out.

“It should not have taken this long,” Charles said.

Charles said he disagreed with the way the matter was handled from the beginning.

“I don’t think the county commission handled it just right and it was really wreaking havoc on my community,” Charles said. “I have no doubt that Larry Larsen is fully qualified for that position.”

Charles pointed to the allegations made against Larsen during an open meeting.

“It was brutal and nobody knew what was going on, and in a situation like that, the rumors fly,” Charles said.

Peabody City Council President Travis Wilson said he was pleased Larsen had been reinstated, noting that Larsen’s skills as a paramedic have been beneficial not just for Peabody but for the rest of the county as well.

Gene Winkler, chairman of the county’s EMS advisory board, was succinct Tuesday.

“I have no comment,” Winkler said.

Larsen could not be reached for comment on his reinstatement.

Last modified Feb. 18, 2016

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