The visit of ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross to Ruston last week likely is connected to a whistle-blower lawsuit now wending its way through federal court, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) has learned.
Ross was working on a follow-up to a March, 2016 news story that reports on the high cost of helicopter ambulance service. He interviewed Carl Cheshire, a former employee of Air Methods Corporation (AMC), the subject of the earlier interview, according to court documents.
The lawsuit, Cheshire v Air Methods Corp., was originally filed in a state court, Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in February, 2015. In March of that year it was moved to federal court, U. S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, in Monroe.
Plaintiff Cheshire alleges in his lawsuit that his former employer AMC fired him in retaliation for:
Reporting safety violations to his supervisors.
Reporting improper fuel burn rate calculations to his supervisors.
Reporting that aircraft mechanical issues were being ignored, and proper maintenance was not performed.
Reporting that maintenance records were not accurately reported.
Cheshire also alleges that controlled dangerous substances were adulterated, which compromised flight safety, and caused inaccurate insurance reports.
AMC denied the allegations.
The Ruston connection is that Pafford EMS, a local emergency services provider is allied with AMC who provides air ambulance service to Pafford, according to a Pafford Facebook posting.
From the Pafford Air One Facebook page:
Pafford Air One enjoys a special partnership with Air Methods Corporation to provide practical solutions to Critical Care Transport needs within our area of operation.
For several years Air Methods has provided the aircraft, pilots, and maintenance personnel to support the AirOne mission.
It is notable that much of the deposition testimony in the lawsuit has been sealed and kept secret by court orders signed by either by U. S. District Judge Robert James, or by Magistrate Judge Karen Hayes.
Cheshire opposed the gag orders, particularly a report by David Downey.
Downy is a Texas-based consultant on aircraft safety, certification, and training.
This week, AMC filed a motion requesting a fishing expedition to determine whether Cheshire or his attorney violated the gag orders.
In the documents, AMC discusses the Wednesday, May 4 Cheshire interview with ABC news at Ruston Regional Airport, and claims that the interview may have violated the court’s orders.
Cheshire filed a motion in opposition to the discovery requests the next day.
The opposition memo notes:
Safety was the topic of the interview. The case was not discussed during the interview. No confidential information was disclosed prior to, during, or subsequent to the interview. Expert reports were not discussed, nor were their findings.
Cheshire’s attorney is Ashley Paige of Ruston.