Ethics Commission to probe decision on Snoops' ambulance trip Annapolis council will also investigate

August 13, 1991|By Gary Gately

ANNAPOLIS -- An Annapolis city council committee and the city's Ethics Commission will look into Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' decision last month permitting an Annapolis ambulance to take the governor's longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, to Baltimore on a non-emergency run.

At the request of Mayor Hopkins, the council's three-member Public Safety Committee agreed last night to review the circumstances surrounding the July 24 trip and to recommend whether Annapolis city ambulances should be allowed to transport patients outside the city's boundaries.

A 71-year-old Annapolis man, Thomas C. Sharps, died of cardiac arrest while the Annapolis city ambulance was returning from taking Mrs. Snoops to Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore after a fall at the governor's mansion.

An Anne Arundel County ambulance that responded to the 10:21 p.m. call to assist Mr. Sharps was stationed three miles farther from his home than the city ambulance, but Fire Capt. George Sherlock said that the extra time was not a factor in Mr. Sharps' death.

The July 24 trip marked the second time in a four-month span that a city ambulance transported Mrs. Snoops to Baltimore on a non-emergency run. In April, an Annapolis ambulance carried Mrs. Snoops to Mercy Medical Center for treatment of muscle spasms, Captain Sherlock said.

Of 14 Annapolis ambulance trips outside the city since July 1, 1990, only Mrs. Snoops' two trips were non-emergencies, Captain Sherlock said.

Before Mayor Hopkins approved the July 24 trip for Mrs. Snoops, Annapolis fire officials had turned it down because of a policy forbidding non-emergency transports outside the city.

At last night's Annapolis city council meeting, a member of the city's Democratic Central Committee, Irma Sponsler, filed a complaint with the Annapolis Ethics Commission, charging that Mr. Hopkins' move violated a section of the city code forbidding an elected official to use "the prestige of his office for his own private gain or the private gain of another person."

"I am outraged by the recent revelations . . . that Mayor Hopkins overruling of a professional battalion fire chief may have contributed to the death of one of our citizens," said Mrs. Sponsler, who was former Mayor Dennis M. Callahan's secretary.

She said that she was testifying as a private citizen, not in her role as a member of the Central Committee.

Mr. Hopkins, reading from a prepared statement, defended hi decision. He said that Capt. Larry W. Tolliver, who heads the governor's security detail, had called him at home and told him it was an emergency.

times such as this, one does not take the time to discuss, debate or investigate when dealing with what is believed to be an emergency situation," he said.

Told that Mrs. Snoops' regular doctor did not have privileges a the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Captain Tolliver requested an ambulance to take her to Baltimore. When the battalion chief on duty denied the request because it would violate city policy, Captain Tolliver called the mayor, who approved the transfer.

But Mr. Hopkins said last night that he had not known that any fire officials denied the request and that Captain Tolliver told him only that he had tried to reach the city's fire chief, who was out of town.

While several city residents criticized Mr. Hopkins' decision last night, former Mayor Roger "Pip" Moyer defended the move.

Mr. Moyer, who served two terms in the 1960s, said he, too, had sent city ambulances to take patients outside the city. The patients, he said, were his mother, who suffered insulin shock that could not be treated at Annapolis' only hospital, and a young man who needed emergency care unavailable at the hospital.

"If you made a mistake, you erred in doing right, not wrong," Mr. Moyer told Mr. Hopkins, who presided at last night's city council session.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who earlier called for a full council investigation of the July 24 incident, said last night that he would "withhold judgment" on the mayor's decision until the investigations are completed.

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