The two firms competing for Scottsdale’s ambulance contract have hired politically connected advisers to help their bids, despite pledges to remain above the political fray.
Professional Medical Transport employed John Berry, arguably Scottsdale’s most prolific and highest-profile zoning attorney, months ago to educate its officials on the city’s political scene, said Patrick Cantelme, the firm’s CEO.
Southwest Ambulance asked Dick Bowers, formerly Scottsdale’s top administrator, to assist in crafting the firm’s emer- gency medical services proposal to the city.
For months, both companies have said they will not engage in the political fighting that has become common for lucrative ambulance contracts.
While neither firm has launched a campaign against the other, the hires could give them a political advantage.
The firms will soon be competing for Chandler’s ambulance contract and possibly Tempe’s as well. The contracts would dictate which firms will provide the primary ambulance service in each city.
Professional Medical also employs Tempe City Councilman Mark Mitchell as its fulltime community relations and public affairs director, the Tribune reported Monday.
Ambulance company officials argued the hires are not related to politics. Instead, Bowers and Berry were asked to offer insights on Scottsdale that would enhance their proposals.
"If you were in the ambulance industry, wouldn’t you go to an attorney that has experience dealing with the elected and administrative officials in the city of Scottsdale?" Cantelme said.
However, Berry said he has no experience dealing with ambulance contracts or even that type of proposal process.
Bowers said his work was to keep Southwest "focused on (the) positive things."
City Manager Jan Dolan said she is prohibiting the ambulance companies from lobbying city employees.
"We have a purchasing procedure that we are going to follow and follow to the ‘T,’ " Dolan said. "We, as staff, are not going to be influenced by politics."
The two ambulance firms, along with Rural/Metro Corp., are the only ambulance companies permitted by the state to operate in Scottsdale. Southwest is a Rural/Metro subsidiary.
Southwest and Professional Medical submitted their proposals to the city purchasing department a week ago, Dolan said. Those will be reviewed by a committee scheduled to recommend one of the firms to the City Council on Sept. 9.
The council will vote to award the ambulance contract in October.
Neither company would provide information about the value of the city’s ambulance contract.
However, the Tribune has calculated that the emergency services provider would likely earn at least $5.8 million a year responding to Scottsdale calls. The contract would cost the city nothing because ambulance companies bill patients directly in Arizona.
Scottsdale, Chandler and Tempe are now served by Southwest, which has dominated the East Valley’s emergency response industry.
But in January, Bob Ramsey — considered an ambulance service trailblazer — purchased a controlling share of Professional Medical.
During the past eight months, Ramsey has worked to oust Southwest, which he founded more than 20 years ago.
Ramsey sold Southwest to Rural/Metro in 1998. He served as a Rural/Metro executive for two years before leaving to launch multiple ambulance firms across the western United States.
In 2003, Ramsey was associated with a failed election drive to remove Rural/Metro from Scottsdale. At the same time, one of his companies, Southwest Ambulance of Nevada, was applying to operate here.
Despite that history, Berry said it is unlikely Professional Medical will play politics.
"My advice to them was and continues to be, (the process) should be apolitical and that public safety should not be political," he said.