It should come as no surprise that the weight of public opinion — at least as expressed on The Sun Chronicle’s Facebook page — is coming down heavily on the side of city Councilor Todd Kobus in his current contretemps with Mayor Paul Heroux.
Kobus, a first-term member of the council, used his personal vehicle to take a person to Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro from a private cooling station set up at LaSalette Shrine one recent hot weekend after the person said he wanted to kill himself.
That action brought a testy rebuke from the mayor, who 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 told Kobus in an email. “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.”
If the mayor thought that he had scored a point against Kobus, with whom he has tangled on other issues, social media postings disagreed.
Out of 51 people who posted opinions on the paper’s Facebook account by late afternoon on Monday, the day the initial story appeared, all but one backed Kobus.
One poster criticized the mayor: “Paul, stop picking fights. He did what his heart told him to do. Furthermore, the individual involved may have resisted police or ambulance involvement.”
And yes, any number of people would have responded similarly to a fellow human being in need — and they would have been wrong.
While the mayor might have phrased his message to Kobus more tactfully, to say no more, we have to side with him in this case.
But don’t take our word — or the mayor’s — for it. Listen to Attleboro Fire Chief Scott Lachance, a veteran first-responder in his own right.
While saying he doesn’t blame Councilor Kobus for acting as he did, “I would really, really hate for the general public to think that it’s wise for them to take someone to the hospital in a psychological or medical emergency,” Lachance told The Sun Chronicle. “If it’s really an emergency they should call 9-1-1. There are things that can happen on the way to the hospital a person is not prepared for.”
(The same criticism goes, frankly, for the council members who freelanced setting up the cooling center at LaSalette last month in the first place, without going through the proper public safety channels.) If you saw your neighbor’s house on fire, would your first thought be to rush over with your garden hose and bucket to try to battle the flames, or would it be to call the fire department?
The first impulse would be a natural one, but not the most helpful. Sometimes it’s better to step aside and let the professionals do their jobs.