Former Antioch Rescue Squad chief: I took the fall

The retired Antioch Rescue Squad chief said he was the “sacrificial lamb” when punishment was handed out in the wake of misconduct allegations involving the squad last year.

In his first public statements about the controversies, Wayne Sobczak also said squad officials were victims of political sabotage.

But despite that, he said, he and the rest of the squad are loved by the community.

“You gotta go into our community and talk to our residents,” Sobczak said. “They still love us, and they still love me and they still love all the other members of the organization, all the other officers.”

He insisted the entire truth hasn't come out, but he plans to tell “the whole story” after the April 9 election.

The comments were made during a Daily Herald candidate endorsement interview for the Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117 board race in which Sobczak is a candidate for one of four seats. The incumbent and board president is on the ballot with Bart Winkler, Geoffrey Guttschow, Nick Ciko and Ronald Vickers.

Sobczak, who has served four terms on the District 117 board, was asked about the ARS controversy during the interview.

Illinois Department of Public Health officials say Sobczak and other ARS leaders failed to maintain proper oversight of prescription medication and to investigate a host of employee misconduct issues. The state also said he prohibited squad members from making reports about any issues to state officials, a violation of the Emergency Medical Services Act.

The findings were among those contained in an IDPH investigation that resulted in ARS being fined $15,000 and required to make a host of changes, including reorganizing the board of directors. Sobczak voluntarily retired as chief and relinquished his paramedic license for one year.

The rescue squad uses volunteers and contract workers to provide emergency medical care 24 hours a day for Antioch and Antioch Township residents.

Sobczak told the Daily Herald he had wanted to talk about the allegations when they surfaced but was advised by attorneys not to comment. He was an ARS volunteer for 40 years, including 17 years as chief.

“I was going to (retire) this year, like right now, but the attorney thought it would be better to negotiate with the village if I were not a part of that because I stick my feet in the sand. I'm too stubborn,” he said.

He retired in October, two weeks before IDPH announced a hearing to consider suspending Sobczak's state-required paramedic license because of the findings.

Sobczak said he was set up as the “sacrificial lamb” by IDPH officials because they wanted someone held accountable.

“(They said) we want you to do this with your license, or we are going to take the license away from the rescue squad,” he said.

IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold would not specifically comment on Sobczak's statement, but she released documents showing Sobczak voluntarily waived his rights to a hearing and voluntarily suspended his paramedic license for a year.

Sobczak also said ARS leaders were politically sabotaged by Antioch village officials so they could take over the squad and grab the revenue it generates.

“The village of Antioch forced us into a political position and made us a political pawn,” he said.

Mayor Larry Hanson said, “This had nothing to do with the village trying to take anything from the rescue squad.”

Hanson said Sobczak did a lot of good in his ARS career, but that he and other rescue squad leaders “messed up.”

“In what I'm reading, (rescue squad leaders) could have nipped the problems in the bud,” he said. “It's not about the revenue and it was never on the radar screen to take it over because of money. If the rescue squad was still on the path the way they were for the last 74 years, this wouldn't be an issue.”

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