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New Board to Take Over at Southern Berks Regional Emergency Medical Services

A new board will take over at Southern Berks Regional Emergency Medical Services in wake of an ongoing state probe into financial mismanagement at the nonprofit ambulance company. The executive shake-up follows recent resignations of Troy A. Barlet, general manager, and the six Southern Berks board members.

A court-appointed receiver, Reading attorney Steven H. Price, is overseeing operations until the new board assumes control Friday.

Southern Berks has about 30 employees and provides ambulance service to 3,000 members in Birdsboro, Kenhorst, Mohnton and Shillington, and Amity, Brecknock, Cumru, Robeson and Union townships.

In summer 2006, the state attorney general's office filed suit in Berks County Court seeking full disclosure regarding the use of Southern Berks' financial assets and accounting practices.

According to those documents:

Barlet kept corporate records and finances on his personal laptop and paid invoices without review by other Southern Berks employees or directors.

In March 2003, while working as a full-time paramedic with the Reading Fire Department, Barlet began paying himself a $50,000 annual salary as managing director at Southern Berks. Records showed the board did not authorize the salary until July 2004.

After leaving the fire department in January 2005, Barlet raised his Southern Berks salary to $100,000 a year without board approval.

And in other court papers filed this month, the state said Barlet used Southern Berks funds to pay personal legal fees.

Barlet declined comment through his attorney, James M. Polyak.

According to Price, Barlet is the sole target of the state probe despite the six former Southern Berks board members who were named as defendants in court papers.

"These are good people who came on to do a job," Price said of the board. "They were named as defendants only because they were directors when the actions were instituted."

Price said the turmoil has not hurt Southern Berks' ability to provide ambulance service and that the organization remains fiscally sound.

Nils Fredericksen, spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett, said investigators also are monitoring a rival ambulance service Barlet recently tried to set up.

Some residents in the Southern Berks service area were solicited by mail to join the Gov. Mifflin Area Ambulance even though the company has no ambulance, staff or state license.

Price said Barlet used the Southern Berks telephone number and mailing address as belonging to the rival ambulance service without authorization.

Cumru Township and Shillington police began investigating after more than 150 residents sent checks ranging from $35 to $65 to a post office box in Shillington rented by Barlet, authorities said.

Polyak said none of the checks was cashed and all have been returned.

Contact reporter Adam Wilson at 610-371-5042 or awilson@readingeagle.com

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