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District of Columbia & Sarasota County signed formal agreement to allow new fire chief to remain DC employee. Arrangement can provide Kenneth Ellerbe with enhanced retirement benefits.

Chief Kenneth Ellerbe from Sarasota County website.

Chief Kenneth Ellerbe from Sarasota County website.

See DC Standard Form 69 – Personnel Exchange Agreement

DC personnel regulations covering temporary assignments

Previous coverage of this story from

A spokesman for the District of Columbia Department of Human Resources confirms there is a signed agreement between the city and Sarasota County about the employment of the Florida community’s new fire chief. Andrew Gerst tells that a form titled “Personnel Exchange Agreement” is on file in connection with DC Deputy Chief Kenneth Ellerbe who has been Sarasota County’s fire chief since August.

DC Fire & EMS Department spokesman Pete Piringer previously confirmed that Ellerbe, employed by the department since 1982, is on leave without pay. The arrangement could allow Ellerbe to remain employed through his 50th birthday in April, in turn enhancing his retirement benefits.

On Tuesday, DC City Council Public Safety and Judiciary Chairman Phil Mendelson said the arrangement “smacks of favoritism” and sends the wrong message to the rank and file who are not allowed these special perks.

While Gerst would not provide details on who signed the form for the DC government, numerous sources familiar with the document tell that it has the signatures of Assistant Fire Chief Brian Lee and Director of Human Resources Brender Gregory.

Chief Ellerbe’s boss in Sarasota County, Emergency Services Director Mike Suarez, confirms he signed a  District of Columbia government document at the time of Chief Ellerbe’s employment. In a telephone conversation, Suarez could not recall exactly what document he signed but said it sounds very similar to the description of the “Personnel Exchange Agreement”.

A copy of a blank “Personnel Exchange Agreement” provided to indicates it would allow Ellerbe to return to his post as deputy fire chief in DC, or “a position of like seniority, status and pay” at “the completion of the assignment”.

When reached by telephone Chief Ellerbe declined to comment on the issue.

DC Fire & EMS Department sources indicate when the arrangement was first presented to Chief Dennis Rubin he refused to sign off on the deal. In June, when the department was questioned by about a possible deal to help Chief Ellerbe with his retirement, the word from a spokesman was that Chief Rubin said there would absolutely no special arrangements.

The fire department sources, who are not authorized to speak on this matter, indicate that Chief Rubin said he only recently became aware that Assistant Chief Lee signed the paperwork.

The Washington Times reported on Monday that by being allowed to receive his retirement pay at age 50 Chief Ellerbe could take home as much as an additional $600,000. Chief Ellerbe is in the middle tier of a three tiered retirement system that requires him to be employed by the department at the time of his retirement to begin receiving benefits before age 55.


Comments - Add Yours

  • John Mitchell

    If the Chief won’t sign off on it, then an Assistant Chief can?

    I see.

    And the Chief doesn’t know that his Assistant Chief did that?

    I see.

    Well, that it explains it all.

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  • Henry

    He doesn’t get enhanced benifits. He earned his retirement, took a leave of abscence, and will get his retirement benefits on time.

  • Anonymous

    And the plot thickens. Will Dennis develop “allergies” as well? Is he rethinking leaving ATL? Will you finally get rid of “Lie’in Brian”? It will be hard to get that next big job with all of this “garbage” trailing in your wake. You know what they say, “what comes around goes around”, maybe you should have done the right thing and this bad karma would have avoided you.

    Good Luck I think you’re gonna need it. Stay on this guy Dave he’s crooked.

  • Amazed

    How can it NOT be enhanced benefits, Henry? If you leave before your 50th birthday, you have to wait until age 55 to start collecting a retirement check? Go read the DC Police and Fire Retirement Plan which by the way had Brian Lee as its chair for quite awhile, didn’t it? Using his position to bend the rules for his needs? Not surprising. So, that means this scam that the two birds of a feather came up with is cheating the city and the citizens. Why can’t everyone in Tier 2 take the last year off before they turn 50,with LWOP and collect 5 years they are NOT entitled to? Seems to me that the law has to be changed FIRST and then they can do it. Is that so hard to understand?

  • Mike Ward

    DC regulations are often mirror-images of the federal government.

    We have “loaned” university faculty to the federal government under the similar Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program

  • Amazed

    There is nothing wrong with an exchange, key word being exchange – what did DCFD get? There is nothing wrong with LWOP. There is a problem when a scam is set up by two top officers to allow one of them,Ellerbe himself, to not show up EVERYDAY save for earned leave, until his 50TH BIRTHDAY! NOBODY else gets that and neither should he. It does not matter how highly praised he is by his kool-aid followers. He has done NOTHING that other great firefighters have not done, to earn an “early-out.” Remember that occasionllly the city offers an “early-out” which you have to QUALIFY for but it is given to all who QUALIFY. They never even offered the financial windfall to the others from Ellerbe’s class at the TA. Anyone know who those guys are? Lets get a list and have each of them request the last year off when they reach age 49. Chief Ellerbe, will you help them by telling them how you finegled it?

  • DCFEMS Fan

    If knowledge of DC Code serves me right a DC Employee can take up to 6 months of LWOP in a calender year if they so chose without penalty. Doesn’t sound like abuse but citizens and advocates should be proactive and help the DC Gov and DCFEMS address this loophole in the retirement benifits system instead of whining about an employee who DC might not ever see again. It’s a done deal and let’s fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again. Look forward folks

  • Anonymous

    Do the math,from July 2009 until April 2010 is 9 months. His 6 month LWOP loophole goes out the window. I wonder if I could be put on LWOP continue to get my benefits and be sent to lets say Honolulu Fire Dept.

  • Anonymous

    It is sad that so called members of DCFEMS, are hating on Chief Ellerbe on the internet. Amazed I have seen your posts on the Washington Times blog, and have to agree with the posts that called you ignorant. You are a member of FEMS and do not know the rules that allow a member to take “up to 12 months” LWOP “WITHOUT” PENALTY!

    I have over 20 years in FEMS, and I am LOL @ all of the negative postings. There are a couple of posts that try to point you all in the right direction, and I am “amazed” at your ignorance, but not surprised.

    Dave you need to get your “facts” correct, so the readers of this blog, can trust what you are saying. I feel that your intent was good, but it is filled untruths and misinformation.

    Dave the reason for this story maybe hitting the AP so time next week. So stay tuned. I hear that DR, BL, and LS are trying to “write” legislation so they can get their retirement early when the “kool aid” administration is over. To the readers, educate yourself and stay tuned, I can not wait until next week.

    Amazed, you and your hater friends get out of Rubes office…and read up on the DPM, and other important manuals.

  • Anonymous

    The exchange form itself says that the person who is on the exchange is expected to come back to work at the end of the exchange. Further, it is supposed to be for the benefit of the government, not only for the member. Also, the granting of LWOP (of any amount) is at the discretion of the agency head. The agency head can grant LWOP to Chief Ellerbe, and deny it to someone else, pretty much at whim. And finally, the Fire Chief didn’t approve it, Brian Lee did!

  • DC Firefighter

    Thanks Dave,

    Someone has to keep ‘em honest. Don’t listen to all the people that bring their negative comments on here about wanting you to stay out of their departments’ business. Sometimes the truth hurts, but someone on the outside is needed in helping to hold people accountable for their actions. If we had screwed up some patient care paperwork ( or any other minor infraction) these people, who are our departments senior chiefs, would be the first in line to crucify us. We all know that they don’t seem to care if we are good at firefighting anymore.

    Keep digging Dave, these people think they can do whatever they want to whoever, whenever. I can’t wait till they see that everyones has to answer for their actions.

  • dave statter

    To the person who wrote- “Dave you need to get your “facts” correct, so the readers of this blog, can trust what you are saying. I feel that your intent was good, but it is filled untruths and misinformation.”

    I am interested in knowing what facts you believe are not correct.

    While I admit there is a lot we don’t know because city officials are not answering questions about this issue, these are all facts I have double and triple checked from numerous sources.

    Like anyone else I do make mistakes. So please enlighten me on the errors.


  • Ordinary Ops captain

    Chief Ellerbe only satisfied a protion of his retirement he did not fill all of the requiremnts to receive his pension at age 50 fair and square. He used a loophole. There are many firemen in the same boat but were not allowed this option. Cut him off and make him wait until 55.

  • Anonymous

    You have the facts straight, but i have another fact for you. When the DC Standard Form 69 signed, they broke the law by lying on a government application. It states as follows:
    Certification of Approving Officials
    In Signing this agreement, it is certified that:
    -The description of duties and responsibilities is current and fully and accurately describes those of the assigned employee;
    -This assignment is being entered into to serve a sound,mutual public purpose and not solely for the employee’s benefit; and
    -At the completion of the assignment, the participating employee will be returned to the position he or she occupied at the time this agreement was entered into or a position of like seniority, status and pay. The last two don’t appear to be true.


    It’s pretty easy. Article 10 page 1 Section 1

    Any member desiring permission for a leave of abscence without pay will execute the DC Form 1199, requesting leave without pay and a submission of a special report addressed to the Fire/EMS Chief.

    The only thing that would be illegal is if he was getting credit for working this year.

  • Anonymous

    That doesn’t explain why they felt the need to use a form 69, and it doesn’t explain why they submitted false information. The DPM does not allow you to break the law. As you know the perjury warning is on almost all gov’t applications. Read the entry above, it is quoted from the form.

  • Amazed

    The only two approved LWOP categories mentioned in DC Code for firefighters which also apply creditable service towards retirement are for military duty and to work in the union. LWOP as written in the OB states nothing other than a special report must be sent to the FC. So you see, LWOP for any amount of time is not gooed enough. It has to also count towards “creditable service.” To anonymous who agrees with the posts that call me ignorant (although I think you probably wrote all of them), why don’t you and/or your alter egos stop attacking anyone who thinks this stinks and simply tell us where to find the laws that everyone but you are ignorant of. As I said on the other comments, you won’t because you can’t – they don’t exist. They are not in the Retirement Plan, DC Code or the DPM. So, the only way to make sure this is on the up and up is hope that Council or someone other than the fire department (and you) takes a look at it.

  • amazed

    So Dave, I take it that the poster who you asked to clarify your mistakes didn’t answer. I doubt he ever will cause he can’t!

  • Yet another

    So, I’m betting that Ellerbe, being a sharp cat, isn’t getting credit for service, only biding his time to 50.

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