Boise Ethics Commission Says It Doesn't Have Authority To Investigate Alleged Heimlich Coverup

Aug 14, 2014

Members of Boise's citizen ethics commission listen to a city attorney offer counsel during a meeting held Thursday afternoon at City Hall. The commission later voted that it does not have the authority to investigate an alleged cover-up in the Boise Fire Department.
Credit Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

The City of Boise’s ethics commission says it does not have jurisdiction to conduct an investigation into an alleged cover-up in the city’s fire department.

The four member citizen panel met Thursday afternoon and unanimously agreed that the city statute that governs the ethics commission doesn’t give it such authority. 

At issue is whether a member of the Boise Fire Department performed the Heimlich maneuver on a man pulled from a Boise canal in late June. The man, Felix Martinez, died a few days later.

Local TV station KTVB interviewed firefighter Brent Matthews and then told viewers that Matthews had performed the Heimlich maneuver on Martinez.

Organizations like the Red Cross say doing so is potentially dangerous for near-drowning victims. The son of the Heimlich inventor has accused the city of a cover-up, after a fire department investigation said the Heimlich was not performed. 

City spokesman Adam Park says Boise is referring the matter now to two local doctors who advise the fire department in medical matters, and to the city’s human resources department. Any further investigations would be up to those officials. 

“The city takes every complaint we receive very seriously,” Park says. “So the city is going to refer this complaint to the fire director(s), to look at it from a medical perspective to see if the proper standard of care was met. We’ll be looking at that one more time. And secondly, [Human Resources] will be looking at this from a personnel perspective to see if there’s anything that shouldn’t have happened – any kind of cover-up – as the complaint alleged.”

Park says there’s no reason to believe the Heimlich was performed on the victim. If any further investigations do take place, it’s not clear when they'd be complete.

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