ATTLEBORO — A city councilor who tried to do good by taking a suicidal man to the hospital ran afoul of the law, according to Mayor Paul Heroux who scolded the councilor in a testy email exchange last week.
Heroux reprimanded Todd Kobus after he discovered that the first-term councilor personally took the individual to the hospital from a private cooling station one recent hot weekend after the person said he wanted to kill himself.
Kobus said he’d do it again.
In an Aug. 4 email, Heroux told Kobus that his decision to help the individual was “negligent” and put the city in “extreme” legal jeopardy.
“A responsible person would call 911,” the mayor said. “That’s their job, not yours. Stay in your lane councilor. You put the city at extreme risk of liability. Not to mention the safety of the person that you would be transporting. You are not an emergency management professional.”
Kobus, an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was unruffled by the rebuke and said the mayor’s reaction was politically motivated.
“Ten out of ten times I would do it again,” Kobus said in a response emailed to The Sun Chronicle. “It’s easy for the mayor to Monday morning quarterback a situation for political gain, but that’s not who I am. Ten out of ten times, I’m going to put the needs of the residents before my own.”
Kobus was at a privately run cooling station at LaSalette Shrine on the weekend of July 20 and 21 when the individual came in and said he wanted to kill himself. The councilor took him to Sturdy Memorial Hospital to get help.
Heroux asked Fire Chief Scott Lachance to intercede and explain the legalities around the transportation of people to the hospital by a city official.
Kobus responded directly to Heroux on that, also on Aug. 4.
“Thanks Paul, but I don’t need further assistance with this matter. As a veteran that has sat through annual suicide prevention training and has lost multiple friends to suicide, if an individual indicates they are thinking about killing themself, I will help in any manner I can,” Kobus said. “That is what a genuinely caring individual does and I am offended you would suggest anyone act differently.”
Meanwhile, Lachance, who was on vacation last week, sent an email on Aug. 5 explaining the legalities of city officials taking people to the hospital.
No city official other than paramedics should do it, he said.
“We deal with this all the time,” Lachance said in an email to Heroux and Kobus. “My paramedics are certified by the state and operate under the medical license of (a doctor) at Sturdy Hospital. Anyone else doing this as a city official is essentially practicing medicine without a license.”
Last month, at the request of Heroux, Lachance, the city’s director of emergency management, told councilors including Kobus, vice president and mayoral candidate Heather Porreca, Ty Waterman and Jay DiLisio, that they violated emergency management protocols when they asked LaSalette Shrine to open a cooling station on July 20 and 21, when heat and humidity were oppressive.
Private businesses or organizations can open their doors to provide relief from the heat, but city officials should not be involved, unless the cooling center is run under the city’s of director of emergency management, Lachance said.