LORAIN, Ohio (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has learned of an investigation into a battle over a new emergency radio system for first responders in Lorain County.
Lorain County sheriff’s deputies are conducting an investigation.
We’ve reported on so much money involved, so much finger-pointing, and so many delays. Deputies now want to get to the bottom of it.
We’ve shown you problems with the county emergency radio system, which sometimes fails during police, fire and ambulance calls.
The Lorain County commissioners backed out of a contract for a new system, and that led to a lawsuit.
In the middle of it all, we’ve also seen claims of wrongdoing during the process to fix the system.
The I-Team spoke to Lorain County sheriff’s Capt. Richard Bosley. We asked if this is a criminal investigation.
“I think, right now, what we’re doing is, we’re just trying to be seekers of fact. There have been complaints and allegations for over 20 months,” Bosley said. “Just merely: Did someone have something to benefit? Is there something that could be looked at as unethical or illegal?”
The I-Team has also seen a document referring to a grand jury reviewing the case.
We confirmed the Lorain County prosecutor asked the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to step in as a special prosecutor. The county prosecutor is stepping aside, since he represents both the commissioners and the sheriff’s department.
The AG’s office declined to get involved in the case.
But the county prosecutor’s office plans to find another outside prosecutor to be involved with the radio system investigation.
Back in January, the I-Team found the radio system for first responders failed during an emergency call from a home in LaGrange.
The recordings show what went wrong. We’ve learned what happened in this case is not that unusual.
This incident began with a 911 call from a home with a woman reporting, “My 83-year-old dad — he can’t breathe.”
But when the EMS crew got to the house, dispatchers couldn’t make contact.
You hear multiple transmissions including, “911 dispatch. 39 checkup,” followed by a pause.
“911 dispatch to La Grange 39.” But still — no answer.
In this case, dispatchers could only reach the EMS crew by calling back the woman who’d called 911 for help.
“Hi, ma’am, this is Lorain County 911. I am looking to attempt to speak to the LaGrange EMS crew that is on scene,” a dispatcher said.
A crew member then says, “Hi, this is LaGrange 39.”
The dispatcher responds, “I apologize for interrupting while you’re on-scene. We’re just not getting; I don’t know if we’re coming across on yours [radio], but we’re just not getting anything.”
The crew member says, “Yeah, I’m not hearing you on the radio.”
After that call, the I-Team went to the Lorain County Administration building. We took a copy of that recording. We wanted to play it for one of the commissioners — a chance to show why first responders are so desperate for a new radio system. We played some of the recording for Commissioner Jeff Riddell.
“It’s a story that needs to be told, and nobody’s denying the equipment in Lorain County is not in need of upgrading,” he said.
Days earlier, Riddell had voted for the county to back out of a contract for a new radio system. So we asked, why? We also asked how much longer first responders will now wait for another contract to fix the system.
“The contract was poorly written,” Riddell said. “It was done without competitive bidding, and it’s $8 million. And we have to be sure the taxpayer’s money is spent wisely.”
As for how much time now has been added to the process, Riddell said, ” … At this point, I would say we don’t have a timetable.”
In the LaGrange case, the crew told dispatchers, “Go ahead, tone out for additional manpower. This is close to a (cardiac) arrest.” Dispatch recordings show that patient was taken to the hospital.
The commissioner told us county leaders are meeting and trying to move along the process to get a new radio system.
Now, we will also watch the investigation.