Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins made an honest mistake when he authorized a city ambulance to take Gov. William Donald Schaefer's longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, to Baltimore on a non-emergency run,a City Council committee concluded last night.
The Public Safety Committee decided to send a resolution to the full council saying mayors or acting mayors shouldn't make decisions involving police, fire or ambulance service without first consulting respective department officials.
A 71-year-old Annapolis man, Thomas C. Sharps, died of cardiac arrest while the city ambulance was returning from taking Snoops to Good Samaritan Hospital after a fall at the Governor's Mansion.
The three-member committee said its resolution would specify that all calls for city ambulances go to 911, not to the mayor or other city officials.
Capt. Larry W. Tolliver, who heads the governor's security detail, had called Hopkins at home to request the ambulance after the city battalion chief on duty denied the trip, saying city procedures prevent the use of ambulances for non-emergency transfers.
Fire Chief Edward P. Sherlock Jr. told the committee he believed Hopkins wasunaware of city policy requiring that patients be taken to the nearest hospital unless it is an emergency and the patient can only be treated at a different hospital.
Sherlock had told the mayor that a city ambulance took Snoops to Baltimore on a non-emergency run in April. But the chief said he did not tell the mayor then that procedures forbid ambulances to make such runs outside the city.
"He just didn't have all the information" on the city ambulance procedures, Sherlock said. "I think there were some incorrect assumptions made by a lot of people."
Alderman M. Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7, who heads thecommittee, said, "It's very sad for the Sharps family that they had a loss of life in the family, but to say that that's someone else's fault . . . is stretching things."
Committee member Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, repeatedly asked Sherlock if he believed Sharp's life couldhave been saved if the city ambulance were available. But DeGraff, committee member Wayne C. Turner and City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson told Sherlock not to answer the question because the family is considering a lawsuit.
"I kept getting back to that question: 'Do you think having that ambulance in the city could have saved Mr. Sharps' life?' " Gilmer said. "But nobody's answering."
Hopkins defended his decision last night. Interviewed by phone, he said that because a cityambulance had taken Snoops to Baltimore in April, he believed the chief supported the July trip.
"I don't feel I made a mistake," Hopkins said. "I simply carried out the policy of the chief."
A countyambulance -- stationed 2.7 miles farther away from the Sharps' housethan the city ambulance that transported Snoops -- responded to the family's 10:21 call. A city fire engine, with a paramedic aboard, hadalready arrived at the home by the time the county ambulance arrived.
City fire officials have said time was not a factor in Sharps' death.