The Bellmore-Merrick Emergency Medical Services saw a financial upswing in 2017, enabling it to upgrade its equipment, improve services and respond to 500 more calls than the average year.
Just a few years ago, the unit had been crunching numbers and wading through economic hardship. “We learned what we could do with very little,” said Chief Scott Resnik. “We became experts at making the right decisions at the right time.”
Resnik discovered that $1.6 million had been stolen from the company by its former president and treasurer Brad Reiter shortly after he took office in January 2015, as he was reviewing the department’s accounts for an annual report. “Something was not right,” Resnik said: Reiter had been underreporting the amounts he received on the EMS’s behalf from insurance companies.
Reiter, 53, of Jackson, N.J., was arrested and charged with theft on Sept. 29, 2016. He pleaded guilty to siphoning money from the department between March 2008 and March 2015, which he spent on credit card and insurance bills, lawn and security services, and payments to himself.
“I started asking questions , and eventually unraveled the complex scheme that was underway for the past seven years,” Resnik said.
The EMS suspended Reiter and took the necessary steps to “stop the bleeding,” Resnik said, working with the Nassau County district attorney and cutting ties with the insurance and billing companies with which Reiter operated.
The administration then implemented a new policy mandating that all future transactions be reviewed by at least three EMS members. “It was a vindication when we realized where we should be from a financial standpoint and realized what we could do,” Resnik said.
Immediately afterward, a renaissance began at the EMS. While Reiter was in office, Resnik said, the EMS was using old equipment that was “still functional, but certainly not modern by any means.” In other words, he added, the EMS could not afford the tools necessary to perform at its maximum potential. After recovering the stolen funds, the unit began purchasing new equipment, such as electronic stretchers, automated CPR machines and an updated radio system.
The former treasurer’s actions not only took a toll on the unit’s operations, but also hampered morale. “I considered [Reiter] to be a friend, so it was a betrayal that hurt personally as well as professionally,” said Todd Haiken, who was appointed treasurer following Reiter’s suspension.
The EMS used its growing budget to boost members’ pride in the department. “Simple gestures to our members, like getting a department T-shirt, went a very long way,” Haiken added. The department was also able to install new carpeting, repaint its building on Grand Avenue in Bellmore and install its first flagpole.
“We’re trying to show the community that [Reiter] is one person who does not represent all of us,” said James Shimer, the department’s assistant chief.
“Without the support of the community, we would not be able to do what we do,” Resnik said, adding that the public never turned its back on the organization after the scandal — with residents’ help, the EMS was able to reach new heights.
Last year, the Nassau County Regional Emergency Medical Services Council raised the unit’s place in the “emergency response matrix,” as Resnik called it, and the organization’s direct landline was connected to an increasing number of 911 calls. The group went from answering 700 calls to finishing this year with 1,200.
“Having additional funds has allowed us to make how we provide care a bit easier,” Haiken said. “But throughout all of this, our level of patient care has never been affected . . . we’ve been serving the community for 45 years and we look forward to 45 more.”