Editor's note: Story updated to include ongoing investigation with the DEA.
Gonzales County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Administrator Jim Russell has been placed on administrative leave without pay, pending the outcome of an investigation by several enforcement agencies including the Texas Rangers and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The EMS Board of Directors met in the station training room at 7 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss Russell's replacement and other EMS business. The meeting opened and went directly into executive session, per statute allowing personnel to be discussed behind closed doors. The news of Russell's official replacement was announced upon returning to open session.
According to Board President Gilbert Philippus, Allen Linebrink was appointed temporarily to the interim position last week when Russell was "relieved of his duties." Linebrink will continue in his appointed position, for the duration of any investigation, per the board's unanimous vote.
Philippus later said Russell personally asked to be relieved of his duties.
"Jim stepped down voluntarily, primarily to save the EMS his salary during this investigation," Philippus said.
In other business, with another unanimous vote, the board supported EMS billing and financials being turned over to an accounting or bookkeeping firm following the outcome of the current ongoing investigations.
Although the training room was packed with first responders, many of whom were there to support Linebrink, no one was permitted to speak during the meeting. According to Philippus anyone wishing to speak to the board would have needed to contact the EMS administrator or other office staff and request their placement on the agenda. He said had anyone spoken up during the meeting the board may have let them speak, but only briefly since they were not on the agenda, as the board does not entertain public comment as a policy. Philippus also said Tuesday night was the first time the board had ever seen this many visitors or entered into executive session.
Gonzales County EMS Board of Directors meets for a regularly-scheduled meeting once a month, at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday at the EMS station, on St. Joseph Street. The next meeting should be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
Russell has several investigations pending. He is being investigated by the Texas Rangers, for unspecified allegations; as well as by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Calls made to Gonzales County Sheriff's Office, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Troop F Texas Rangers have turned up no tangible answers as to the exact nature of the investigation. The Sheriff's Office referred all questions to the Texas Rangers. Troop F referred all questions to the DPS's Public information officer. Public Information Officer Jason Reyes has said he has forwarded questions to the Rangers. The DEA, like other agencies, is unable to share details of an ongoing investigation.
Updates will come as more information is made available.