Fla. 'paramedic of the year' fired, hired, then fired again - WRBL

Fla. 'paramedic of the year' fired, hired, then fired again

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Troy Granata was fired by Highlands County not once, but twice. Why? Troy Granata was fired by Highlands County not once, but twice. Why?

Former Highlands county EMS supervisor Troy Granata, a former Florida paramedic of the year, claims he was illegally fired after 17 years of serving his county.

A man who is now in the running to replace Granata, Michael Tomlinson, was himself fired during a 2013 Polk County sex scandal. Tomlinson has connections to Granata's former EMS boss.

Granata showed his stuff under fire during a horrific tour bus accident in February 2010. A bus loaded with seniors overturned as it swerved to avoid a car. 5 people died in the accident, dozens were injured. Granata coordinated the rescue of trapped passengers as well as the transport of the injured to bay area hospitals.

The Highlands Board of County Commissioners praised his heroics. In 2013, the county that sang his praises, fired Troy Granata, twice.

"I tried to tell them that they were breaking the law," Granata said.

To understand what happened to Troy Granata, you need to look back to 2012.

He had recently been promoted to Highlands County paramedic supervisor. His evaluation states: "Troy had a negative incident occur at the end of his probationary period…"

The negative incident was a random drug test that came back positive.

READ: Granata's employee warning report

"I went out with some friends, went fishing, we were drinking, they were smoking marijuana and I smoked on that day too," Granata said.

Granata completed county-required counseling. He also signed a memorandum of understanding that stated if he tested positive again he would be fired.

In 2013, as he was about to leave for a planned cruise, his supervisor Harvey Craven told Granata the Human Resources department wanted a drug test.

"I told him, I have a prescription for phentamine and that I was going to test positive for amphetamine salt and that I was taking this medication under the direct order of a doctor," Granata said. He claims Craven said ok.

After providing the sample, the Granatas left for their planned vacation, thinking all was in good hands. They couldn't have been more wrong.

When he returned to the U.S., Granata found on his cell phone a message from the Highlands County Medical Review Officer saying he wanted to talk to Granata about the results of a drug test.

"I told him that I was taking it under the direct order of a doctor and he basically told me if I didn't have a valid prescription he would report it positive to my employer," Granata said.

Granata was unable to reach his doctor.

He claims Craven ordered him to attend an H.R. meeting the next day on July 19th.

"I asked him ‘are you really going to let them screw me over before you give me a chance to provide this documentation’?" Granata said.

County records show Craven had already signed off on Granata's termination on July18th, before the Granatas even returned home from their trip.

The next day, the 19th, the county fired Granata.

"I tried to tell them that this was against the law, when they were terminating me. I told them several times, this is against the law," Granata said.

State law requires an employer provide an employee who receives written notification of a positive drug test 5 days to produce records contesting the test result.

Troy Granata didn't get 5 days, nor did he receive written notification of a positive drug test before Highlands County fired him.

County administrator June Fisher signed off on the termination. Other than claiming the county followed the law, Fisher had little to say about Granata's firing.

"We have been advised by our attorneys not to answer any questions regarding that," Fisher said.

Records show that Dr. Arthur Williams recommended, a few days before the drug test, that Granata try the drug Adderall for appetite suppression.

But the county didn't wait for the records, it went ahead and canned Granata.

"I'm telling them by law you have to give me time to submit the documentation and you haven't done that and they terminated me anyway," Granata said.

A week after the county fired Granata, it received his doctor's records and reversed the positive drug test.

Two weeks after it fired Granata, the county offered him his job back and ordered him back to work.

"I had already hired an attorney and had about $3,500 in attorney's fees at that point," Granata said.

He and his lawyer asked for back pay and benefits. He also felt since he warned the county it was making a mistake that it should reimburse him for attorney's fees and he wanted a guarantee he would not face retaliation.

The county, which has rushed to fire Granata, wrote back that it would not be rushed into an agreement and ordered him to return to work.

"I was not willing to come back, eat attorney fees and go back under the same administration that did this to me with no guarantees, with a target on my back," he said.

Granata never got back to work. Negotiations dragged on, then broke down. In November, Highlands county fired Granata again, this time for abandonment.

Shortly after Granata's second termination, EMS supervisor Craven hired an old friend, Michael Tomlinson, who worked for Polk County Fire Rescue when Craven headed Polk's EMS.

It turns out Tomlinson had a rough 2013 as well. A Polk County Fire Rescue investigation determined while on duty and on county property, Tomlinson had sex on the job with another supervisor. The county fired him.

Tomlinson acknowledged on his Highlands County job application that he had been discharged or asked to resign from any previous employer, and that he had received disciplinary action within the last 12 months from an employer.

On the application line that reads, "if you answered "Yes" , explain the circumstances," Tomlinson wrote, "Will explain in interview."

Apparently there was no explanation. Records show Craven, H.R. manager Melissa Bruns, and two other county officials sat in on the interview.

In response to an 8 On Your Side question about whether the sex scandal issue in Polk county came up during Tomlinson's job interview, Highlands County spokesperson Gloria Rybinski indicated it did not. Rybinski said Bruns told her that Bruns said she would remember if something like that came up, and Bruns does not remember that at all.

On the job less than a month, Tomlinson is one of 7 applicants being considered to become the county's next paramedic supervisor, Troy Granata's old job.

Granata estimates that between legal fees and lost salary he is out about $50,000 and the battle with the county has left he and his family financially strapped, on the brink of losing their home.

Why didn't he take the job back when the county offered?

"Principle, because I had spent $4,700 in attorney's fees, this was not my fault, this was 100 percent their fault. I wasn't going back with no guarantees, I wasn't going to be retaliated against and without them covering my attorney fees," Granata said.

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