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Indiana punishes Muncie EMTs for exam cheating scandal

An investigation into exam cheating inside the Muncie Fire Department has resulted in punishment against at least nine EMTs.

MUNCIE, Ind. — An investigation into exam cheating inside the Muncie Fire Department has resulted in punishment against at least nine EMTs and could end the career of a longtime Muncie firefighter.

Six weeks after 13 Investigates broke news of the cheating scandal, Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security sent letters to inform MFD staff of discipline stemming from what State Fire Marshal Steve Jones called a “very thorough investigation.”

“There were test answers that were passed out to students so that they could cheat on tests,” Jones told 13News. “They broke the rules of the National Registry and they broke Indiana state law when it comes to our ability to give a test. We cannot tolerate it.”

13 Investigates obtained an investigation report and order issued by state homeland security. The report states MFD Capt. Troy Dulaney coordinated a “cheating scheme” in which he sent a group text to all eight students in the January 2023 basic EMT certification course offered at the MFD training center. According to the state investigation, which included interviews with more than 30 MFD staff members, Dulaney’s unsolicited text included test questions and answers to help Muncie EMT recruits pass their National Registry EMT exam.

The document also says Dulaney texted the students after they completed their certification test, “indicating that they should give him test questions and answers from their own NREMT examination.” State investigators said the follow-up text from Dulaney “indicated that since he had ‘invested’ in the students… they should ‘invest back in him.’”

IDHS’s investigation report claims Dulaney’s actions in his capacity as an emergency medical services professional to organize and involve others in a cheating scheme constitute “fraud and material deception” and “lewd and immoral conduct” in violation of state law.

As a result, the state EMS director has issued an order revoking all five of Dulaney’s EMS-related certifications for the next seven years. According to IDHS, the revocation essentially means Dulaney cannot be an EMT in Indiana during that time -- the harshest penalty state regulators can take against an EMT.

Jones said that discipline was chosen for a reason.

“We had never had a case that saw such blatant disregard for giving test answers out for students to cheat,” the state fire marshal said. “This was pretty big and broad in scope, way beyond what we’ve seen in the past.”

According to the city’s human resources department, MFD hired Dulaney as a firefighter in 2004. Since then, city records show he completed 37 training courses and earned 42 firefighter and EMS certifications, including passing his basic EMT certification exam in 2020 and earning an advanced EMT certification in 2022. Both of the EMT certification tests include a non-disclosure agreement in which exam takers agree not to share information about exam questions and answers with anyone else. MFD promoted Dulaney to lieutenant in 2020 and captain in 2021.

The MFD captain has not responded to any of 13News’ attempts to contact him.

EMT recruits avoid harsher penalties

While state officials allege Dulaney was at the center of the cheating scheme, IDHS is also taking action against the eight EMT recruits that received test questions and answers from him.

The state’s investigation report involving the recruits acknowledges “students were put in a challenging situation when Dulaney, a high-ranking officer in their fire department, involved the students in a cheating scheme.” It goes on to say that even though “the students did not ask to be involved in it… the students still cooperated by not reporting the misconduct and by offering return information to Captain Dulaney.”

Because of their silence, IDHS issued a censure to all eight EMTs, placed them on two years of probation and voided the results of the national EMT exam they passed in February. While the state did not officially suspend or revoke their EMT certifications, all eight of the EMTs must re-take their National Registry exam within 90 days and pay a $100 civil penalty.

13News is not naming the censured EMTs because IDHS told 13 Investigates some of the EMT recruits insisted they did not want and deleted the test information Dulaney texted to them. The state’s administrative orders against Dulaney and the other EMTs were issued May 18, 2023, but the effective date is Monday, June 5 to give the EMTs time to appeal.     

Asked about possible penalties that his department’s EMTs could face as a result of several cheating investigations, Muncie Fire Chief Robert Mead told 13News last month that he feared multiple EMT certification revocations could be devastating to MFD’s ability to staff its EMS service.

The state fire marshal said he believes a more mild punishment was warranted for most of the EMTs identified in the state’s cheating investigation.

“We don’t want to penalize the department if we don’t have to,” Jones said. “We want Muncie to be able to provide good [EMS] service… and so putting some of them on probation for a couple years and allowing them to continue to work after re-testing, we’re confident that they can still deliver good service to the community.”

IDHS told 13 Investigates it is not taking disciplinary action against the Muncie Fire Department’s EMS provider certification or its EMS training institution status due to insufficient evidence that MFD’s official EMS instructors were involved in the cheating. While Dulaney assisted with exam preparation, IDHS says he was not a full-time instructor.

Geo Henderson, an industry expert who’s held an EMT certification for nearly 30 years and who now serves as a battalion chief at a New York fire department, agrees with IDHS’s disciplinary decisions. He said if exam cheating is suspected, requiring EMTs to re-take their certification exams is a wise choice.

“If those exams are in question, if there’s a chance you’re not truly qualified to hold your position and you’re not on your game, people’s lives hang in the balance,” he told 13News.

Henderson said the type of cheating identified in Muncie tarnishes the reputation of all first responders, and he believes MFD leaders now need to do some soul searching.

“We absolutely should not be sweeping this under the carpet. We should be looking at this with a very harsh spotlight to say, ‘How did this happen? How can we prevent this from happening? And how can we build that culture where this will never be tolerated again?’

Whistleblower complaints prompt new federal lawsuit

The state’s discipline announcement comes just weeks after 13 Investigates first reported on a cheating scandal that had grown large enough to prompt whistleblowers to come forward.

“I know what’s going on is wrong. I can’t sit back and watch it happen any longer,” an MFD insider told 13News, saying that they had seen the cheating happen firsthand.

The whistleblowers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, provided 13News with pages and pages of test questions and answers they say Dulaney and other MFD staff harvested directly from EMT and firefighter certification exams. 13 Investigates also obtained a copy of a text message, allegedly sent by Dulaney along with test questions and answers, that said “Do not tell anyone I shared with you … The more you KNOW the material, the better recall you will have afterwards to remember questions.” 

Collected and sharing test questions and answers with students prior to their EMT exam is a serious violation of exam rules.

Those rules from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians state:

“Candidates are not permitted to disclose or discuss with anyone, including instructors, information about the exam questions or answers seen in your examination” and “Reconstructing exam items using your memory of your exam or the memory of others is prohibited.”

Asked about its own investigation into cheating allegations at the Muncie Fire Department, an NREMT spokesman sent 13 Investigates the following statement:

“The National Registry of EMTs is continuing its investigation involving the Muncie (Indiana) Fire Department. At this time, we can confirm that some actions have been taken, including certification revocations and examination nullifications. These actions were based on the information made available to the National Registry during its investigation. Because this is an ongoing investigation, we will not provide any further information until the investigation is completed.”

While the organization has not yet completed its investigation, it has already taken dramatic action to prevent MFD staff from disseminating further test questions.

13News has learned NREMT has filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking damages against Dulaney and two other Muncie EMTs for what it calls a “years-long scheme” to reveal “confidential and proprietary materials” before students take their EMT exams. 

The lawsuit alleges Dulaney sought help from Muncie EMTs Jacob Sutton and Adam Burk, and that the two EMT recruits “memorized questions on NREMT examinations they took and then disclosed those questions to Dulaney, knowing that Dulaney intended to share those questions with other prospective test takers.”

In doing so, NREMT says the MFD staff violated the non-disclosure agreement they signed while taking their National Registry exams, resulting in test takers getting “an improper advantage on the test and endangering the public whom these prospective emergency medical technicians were to serve.” It’s 21-page lawsuit states the Muncie Fire Department’s eight-member EMT recruit class assisted by Dulaney in 2023 had a 100% pass rate – dramatically higher than the national pass rate of 68% and Indiana pass rate of 56% for all of 2022.

Because of the cheating, NREMT claims it now has to retire and replace all of the compromised test questions and conduct a much wider investigation - a process that is “very time-consuming and expensive” and that has required the reassignment of eight full-time staff members. The organization is requesting the federal court to prohibit the defendants from obtaining and sharing their copyrighted trade-secret questions and answers, to return all collected questions and answers in their possession, and to award compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

While Dulaney has not responded to requests for comment from 13News, he did reply to NREMT to address the allegations levied against him. 

"While I continue to deny the veracity of the allegations presented and do therefore disagree with the findings... I do hereby apologize for even the semblance of wrongdoing," he wrote in late April.

What happens next

It’s not just Muncie EMTs who are facing punishment.

The state fire marshal has also been investigating allegations that Muncie firefighters also cheated on their certification tests, which often bring pay increases and promotions for successfully passing the exams.

IDHS tells 13News it is already preparing disciplinary recommendations involving Muncie firefighter certifications, which will be presented next week to the Indiana Board of Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education.

NREMT is also expected to release its investigation report in the coming weeks.

The focus then shifts to what actions, if any, the Muncie Fire Department will take against its own staff that state investigators cited for engaging in the cheating scheme.

While Fire Chief Robert Mead originally told 13News last month that his department was conducting its own investigation, he later seemed to suggest that MFD was not proactively investigating the allegations, but instead waiting to see what IDHS and NREMT investigators would find during their probes. It leaves many unanswered questions:

  • Will MFD take further disciplinary action against Dulaney – perhaps even firing him in the aftermath of the state’s investigation -- or allow the captain to remain with the department?
  • Will the department take additional actions against other EMTs who participated in the cheating or consider the state’s sanctions sufficient?
  • Will the two EMTs named in NREMT’s federal lawsuit face MFD punishment for allegedly providing test information to Dulaney? 

13 Investigates contacted Mead and the city’s human resources department for answers to those questions. So far, neither has responded with comment. Monday afternoon, Muncie’s EMS director and deputy fire chief referred phone calls back to the fire chief.

13News will update this story with more information as it becomes available.

City of Muncie statement

The office of Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour released the following statement:

After reviewing results from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, the City of Muncie and the Muncie Fire Department have not been implicated in the investigation of potential cheating on the National Registry EMT exam. One firefighter has clearly been implicated in offering to facilitate EMT trainees in violating ethical test taking standards. 

I, Mayor Dan Ridenour, have conferred with the Fire Chief and concur wholeheartedly that this behavior is completely unacceptable. We are pursuing disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Maintaining the integrity of our Fire Department and EMT program is paramount to the safety of our citizens, and my administration will not tolerate corrupt or dishonest conduct.

The president of Muncie's fire merit commission told 13 Investigates, he has asked for an emergency executive session with the fire chief Wednesday night to learn more details. Andrew Dale claims the administration has not kept the commission informed.

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