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Florida Firefighters Accused of Cheating on Exam

Allegations of cheating on paramedic exams are surfacing against North Naples firefighters again.

Firefighters from North Naples, Naples, the Isles of Capri and Ochopee districts are entwined in accusations that questions from a paramedic test at a private medical institute were available to some firefighters days before the test was administered in October, according to sworn affidavits compiled by Collier County staff members.

The allegations indicate some firefighters received a study guide in advance that turned out to be the actual test.

The Collier County Commission is scheduled to discuss the most recent allegations at today's commission meeting. The commission could decide whether to request a state investigation into the matter.

This isn't the first time North Naples firefighters have been accused of paramedic test cheating. In May 2009, County EMS Medical Director Dr. Robert Tober accused firefighters in East Naples and North Naples of cheating on medical protocol exams.

State EMS investigators refused to investigate and internal investigations by the two departments cleared firefighters of wrongdoing.

According to sworn statements gathered as evidence for today's meeting, one Isles of Capri volunteer firefighter reported he suspected students of cheating in a paramedic class at a private Bonita Springs medical institute.

He started to ask questions, he wrote in a sworn statement, after some students, who had been failing, started making better grades. After confronting several students, that firefighter said he received a copy of a special study guide given to some, but not all, students before the exam.

That study guide later was acknowledged by the class instructor to be the actual questions for the exam, Collier County EMS Chief Jeff Page wrote in a sworn statement.

Page explained that the exam tested paramedics on their ability to calculate what drug dosage to give patients in given scenarios.

The instructor later tried to explain that he had accidentally given out the actual test as a study guide, Page wrote.

Another part-time Ochopee firefighter, who said he was accused by some of the students of exposing the testing inconsistencies, said he felt threatened by some of the firefighters and now fears for his safety.

In his statement, Page also noted that one firefighter made a recording from his cell phone during class when it sounded like he was being threatened.

On Monday, Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle said the commission during today's meeting would attempt to determine the veracity of the "disturbing allegations."

He said it was the job of the commission to address the matter because it concerns the safety of Collier citizens and visitors.

Eloy Ricardo, vice president of the North Naples firefighters union, said he knew the County Commission was discussing an issue involving paramedic testing irregularities but didn't know the details.

He declined to comment until after the commission hearing.



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