After hearing public input both for and against suspending local funding to a volunteer rescue squad, the Patrick County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a motion to condemn racism and Nazi ideology in the county government.
The sweeping motion encompasses publicly funded entities “of all kinds, including fire departments and rescue squads,” said Lock Boyce, board chairman.
Boyce suspended the public comment portion of the meeting, initially saying he would entertain a motion to suspend county funding to the Jeb Stuart Volunteer Rescue Squad. As chairman, Boyce cannot make a motion, and the proposed motion did not materialize.
The board instead opted to take action on Boyce’s second proposal after a number of people voiced concerns about Alex McNabb, an EMT and part-time employee of the Jeb Stuart Volunteer Rescue Squad who was placed on unpaid administrative leave on Dec. 10, pending the outcome of an investigation conducted by the state Office of Emergency Services.
McNabb also attended and spoke at the meeting after gaining attention in a Dec. 8 story in “The Huffington Post,” for comments made while he was off-duty and during what he said is a comedy show.
McNabb said that he has been “smeared by the far left media” for the comments made during the “edgy radio show” which he co-hosts in a fictitious persona, Dr. Narcan.
He said there is “no proof” that he is a neo-Nazi, and denied ties to the alt-right. He compared the attention to a witch hunt. “I’m the victim of this smear attack,” he said.
Boyce read several of the comments that were attributed to McNabb in the national publication, citing a Nov. 8, 2016 episode of “The Daily Shoah” in which McNabb allegedly compared black patients to animals.
Boyce read, “the heat brings out the wild in the dindu … as winter approaches, the animals go into hibernation and the ridiculousness of the (911) calls goes down. Did you say that,” Boyce asked McNabb.
Boyce also referenced an Oct. 4, 2016 segment about an apartment complex that “houses people from all over Africa and West Africa,” and was referred to by EMS workers as “Ebola Alley. Did you say that,” Boyce asked.
The comments, McNabb said, were intended as entertainment, adding the show includes political speech and shock comedy.
”This is about free speech. This is a constitutional issue. I will legally fight it if it comes down to it,” McNabb said.
The squad’s board of directors on Wednesday, Dec. 12 affirmed McNabb’s unpaid leave, but many speakers said the squad did not go far enough.
The Rev. Daniel Spencer, of the Peters Creek District, encouraged the supervisors to suspend county funding to the squad until it resolves the issue.
“This county has no room for racists. You folks have a responsibility to do something. If this continues, it is not going to die, even if we have to bring in lawyers to represent us,” Spencer said. “If you folks allow him to stay on, this is not going to die at all. For you to use my tax dollars to pay him, do you not have a conscience? You have the power to withhold funds. He needs to go, period.”
The Rev. Don Johnson, of the Mayo River District, recounted an incident he said occurred while he was a leader with the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Then, he said a staff member told him about a man in the lobby with a Nazi armband and carrying a book about Hitler.
Johnson said he went to meet the man and said, “I’m sorry, but you will not be able to stay in our lobby with that armband and that book.”
The man replied, “I have rights,” Johnson said. “I replied, ‘you sure do’” and that those rights could be exercised outside of the building.
He also explained the word ‘Shoah’ is a Hebrew word used to describe the Holocaust.
“Words matter and they reveal our identity,” Johnson said, adding a basic ethic in health and medicine is to do no harm.
“This is not just about words,” but about power and vulnerability when responding to medical calls. Then, it is “power and prejudice linked together,” Johnson said.
Charlie Thomas, of the Peters Creek District, said he thought things had changed since the 1960s when he was drafted to serve in the Army and went to Vietnam, but “it seems like Patrick County is a magnet for a whole lot of hate groups. We think Adolf Hitler is dead,” but you can’t kill a demon, Thomas said.
He called for a suspension of funds until the squad terminates McNabb’s employment. “I’m not saying you should change Jeb Stuart’s name, just change the game,”
Thomas also expressed concerns about the kind of care a person of color would receive from a person who shares similar views about race.
“We don’t want our money to be spent on somebody who will put us out when we think we’re getting help,” he said.
Karen Spencer, of the Peters Creek District, said she had read all of the current information available. “I don’t know if it’s completely true. I applaud Mr. McNabb for being here tonight, and I will cross the depths of the ocean” for him to have his freedom of speech.
Spencer said she was not in favor of withdrawing support for the squad, but did support withdrawing support of him continuing as an EMT.
Wren Williams, of Schneider & Williams, P.C. and volunteer attorney for the squad, encouraged the county to allow the squad to handle the situation.
McNabb has served as a paid, part-time EMT with the squad since November, 2017, working 24 hours per month and paid using soft billing revenues, Williams said.
“Let me be very clear: Jeb Stuart Rescue Squad does not condone, support, agree with or look with favor upon Mr. McNabb’s comments regarding” the race or religions of others, Williams said. “His statements, true or not, fiction or non-fiction, are wrong, indecent and do not represent” the squad, its members or Patrick residents.
However, Williams said McNabb has the right to free speech. The Supreme Court reaffirmed in April, 2017 that there is “no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. … Please do not support Dr. Boyce’s call to withhold funding to the squad. We are handling this matter with Due Process: a decision that has been supported by the Department of Health, the Virginia Employment Commission, every legal and HR (human resources) professional I have spoken with about the matter and the countless articles I have read on HR law and the First Amendment since stepping in to help,” he said.
“Make a statement that Patrick County does not stand for this type of behavior. I agree, but don’t go any further,” Williams said, urging the board to protect the county, its residents and the squad “from being dragged into costly litigation.”
Alan Black, of the Blue Ridge District and the county’s attorney, said he has been corresponding with Naomi Hodge Muse, president of the Martinsville-Henry County NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which also covers Patrick County.
Black said she is very disturbed by the blog and Twitter posts by the EMT and is concerned that someone with such racist views is serving the public in Patrick County.
She thinks that the investigation by the state should run its course and that local squad and supervisors should wait until the investigation is completed.
“She does not recommend that Mr. McNabb be fired because she is suspicious that what he wants most of all is to be viewed as a victim and martyr for his beliefs, and that he can then use his martyrdom and victimhood to promote moral patriot and notoriety for his program and his thoughts,” Black said.
Jerry Wilson encouraged the board not to glorify McNabb or the situation. “All you’re doing is arguing and no one is making a point. The only one I’ve heard so far this evening make a point is Mr. Williams because he is at least sharp enough to know if you fire this guy … you cannot just fire someone if they just make a statement if you don’t have your ducks in a row.”