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Former Plantation paramedic was treated unfairly, attorney says

PLANTATION -- An attorney representing a former paramedic says the city treated her client unfairly in forcing him to resign and that he should be reinstated.

On Feb. 3, James Williams left before his 24-hour shift was over after his 10-month-old daughter fell ill and was taken to the hospital, said his attorney, Ellen Block.

Williams had been told to remain at his post for several hours until another firefighter could replace him, but he left early when his superior said "his mind was not on his work," Block said.

Williams understood his superior's statement to mean that he had permission to leave, Block said.

"Given Paramedic Williams' knowledge of the emergency treatment of children and medications, he felt the overwhelming compulsion to be with his daughter at this time," Block said.

The child was hospitalized for one night with an upper respiratory illness, high fever and shortness of breath, Block said. Williams' wife had accompanied the child to the hospital.

Williams, 32, of Sunrise, then was called to a city disciplinary hearing in March, where Block says he was asked to resign under threat of being fired.

"I think any parent would have done the same thing," Block said. "When he left, he felt he could leave without being punished."

Williams could not be reached for comment despite two messages left at his home.

Block said the city was punishing Williams for supporting the paramedics' failed effort to unionize earlier this year.

Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Harris initiated an investigation into the matter in late February, said Plantation Battalion Chief Joel Gordon. Gordon declined to comment further, citing confidentiality rules related to personnel issues.

In a letter sent July 27 to Mayor Rae Carole Armstrong and City Council members, Block asked that Williams be reinstated, citing his "unparalleled service to the community."

Williams was hired as a paramedic in October 2002.

Armstrong could not be reached for comment despite two messages left at her home and with her office assistant.

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