Fla. fire chief retires, requests probe of EMS billing company
The city of Apopka has also filed a lawsuit against National EMS Billing alleging fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment
By Stephen Hudak
APOPKA, Fla. — Apopka Fire Chief Chuck Carnesale, a part of the fire department since 1983 when he was 13 and served as a “student explorer,” announced Wednesday he is retiring.
His decision to step down effective Friday followed a city request for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into problems with National EMS Billing, a company which held a contract to collect bills from patients treated by the city’s emergency medical service. Apopka has sued the company, also known as NEB, alleging fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said investigators were awaiting documents to start a probe.
In a text Wednesday to the Orlando Sentinel, Carnesale said he celebrated his 30th full-time year with the Fire Department last week, prompting his decision.
“My part in that NEB investigation is very little and was not the reason to retire,” he said.
Carnesale sent an email to them, informing him of his decision.
“This fire department practically raised me in the absence of having a father,” Carnesale wrote. “Words will never be enough to express my gratitude for those firefighters who came before all of us and helped build the Apopka Fire Department into what it is today. For the past 37 years, my sole focus has been the Apopka Fire Department. It is time to pass the torch to new leadership as I begin to address my personal well-being and spend some much needed time with my family out of state.”
He signed off, writing, “I will never forget you and will continue to pray for your safety and the safety of our citizens of this great city of Apopka. May God bless you all.”
He did not mention the billing controversy in the email.
Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson said Carnesale informed him of his decision in a face-to-face meeting.
“The EMS thing, it is a mess,” said Nelson, noting Carnesale had supervised EMS for about seven years before he was named chief in June 2016.
But the mayor also said he does not believe Carnesale steered money from NEB away from the city.
The city’s lawsuit against the billing agency triggered an emergency order issued by a judge after City Attorney Joseph Byrd discovered and notified the judge that NEB had responded to the filing with a 1,100-page public reply, which included hundreds of pages of confidential health information about people who had been treated or transported by Apopka EMS.
The judge’s ordered sealed the confidential information before it could be spread over the Internet.
©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)