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DC Chief Kenneth Ellerbe comments on suspension of spokesman Lon Walls over racism allegations. More discussion of order telling firefighters to behave at mayor's speech.

Listen to entire interview with Chief Ellerbe and IAFF Local 36 president Ed Smith

Walls suspension & Alan Suderman's profile of Chief Ellerbe's battles with Local 36

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DC Fire & EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and IAFF Local 36 president Ed Smith were both interviewed on The Politics Hour on WAMU-FM yesterday by show host Kojo Nnamdi and Washington City Paper's Loose Lips columnist Alan Suderman. Among the items discussed were the allegations by department spokesman Lon Walls that a January 24 protest by firefighters was a racist act. Walls has been suspended with pay for five days.

Michael Debonis at The Washington Post wrote about Chief Ellerbe's appearance:

“I think we have to be very careful when it comes to the issue of race, and that’s why Lon was placed on administrative leave, just to give us all time to breathe a minute,” Ellerbe said. “We never want to interject race in an area or an environment where you already have some perceived challenged or even hostilities. That just exacerbated the problem.”

Walls, he continued, “was speaking on his own personal account, but still he is a government official at this point. … We have to have a higher standard for the way we respond personally and professionally.”

In addition, there was more discussion by Ellerbe and Smith over the directive that came out a week ago warning firefighters to behave at Mayor Vincent Gray's State of the District address with the chief continuing to say this was a problem caused by a lieutenant alligned with the union.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Cochran

    PAID administrative leave.  Accusing someone of racism is significant and is really the mirror image of making racist remarks and should be treated as such, especially considering Mr. Wall's position in the DC gov't.  He should be relieved of his duties.
    So sad that Mr. Walls decided to play the race card on TWO separate tweets.  One would think Chief Ellerbe and Mayor Gray would demand someone with a bigger brain as their spokesperson.

  • Scottytheaardvark

    Suspended with pay ????  I'd call that a vacation…..

  • SkidMarks

    You'll notice LRB stressed administrative leave to the other guest. Hell…alot of our members get that the sunday before EMT recert starts. They didn't do or say anything to label members of the dept. Chief, you are nothing but an educated baffoon!

  • Former Chief

    I don't see how a paid administrative leave is any discipline.  Take note that it is an "administrative leave" and not a suspension.  Terminology is important when someone from the rank and file is accused of racism or inappropriate comments.  I listened to the entire radio program, same old, same old from what I heard.  I also read the Post article, which I thought was terrible reporting, and the Loose Lips article, which was better, but still didn't explain everything that is taking place.  As far as the radio show, the Chief had more opportunity to provide his views than the Local 36 President.  Fairness in reporting?  The only question that seemed to put the Chief on the spot was whether or not he wanted to run for Mayor.  He really danced around that one.  We may not be seeing it, but I think it would help if Local 36 really starts to provide more hard numbers and facts on the cost of the uniform issues, decal issues, how many apparatus are out of service, etc. to get the support of the majority of DC citizens.  Just an observation from an outsider.

  • Mr618

    What Scotty says. Suspension with pay certainly isn't going to cause him to change his behavior. If I could get a five day PAID vakay every time *I* was rude, I'd make The Rude Pundit (very, VERY NSFW)  look like Mother Teresa.

  • Anon

    Can't someone pull the tapes from OUC? If the order was broadcast on air we know if came from a DFC or higher. 

  • Fireman in the DR

    Ellerby is the F'ing racist and he deserves to be stripped of rank.  I don't even work for DCFD and it's obvious to me.  Once a Mutt always a Mutt.  Must have been nice working in FL while on paid leave from the DCFD.  Citizens of DC, beware!  You don't have a Fire Chief looking out for you, you have a douche looking out for his coronies! 

  • imnotleaving

    Former Chief: Members of Local 36 are attending community meetings all over town, every month.
    As for lrb: is it fair to demote a senior officer just because he won't get sucked into your "witch hunt?"
    So far the only transparency I've seen is seeing right through this s***bags lies and bs.

    • Former Chief

      imnotleaving, thanks for the info.  Getting the word out on what is actually going on is important for Local 36 and the Fire Dept.  Hopefully, an educated public will be your best ally.  I'm hoping everything works out for the Brothers and Sisters of DCFD.  I hate to see a FD dragged down by incompetent leadership.

  • Scooter

    I will continue to pray for DCFD.  Making this a race issue is his way of throwing a smoke screen.  Just because the group got up and walked out after his speech because of  issues ….. other than race.   Come on man WTF…..  and the District is home to the President of the Unitied States and they have clowns like this running a fire – ems department.  I hate to see what the rest of the city officals act like if they hired this guy.  Strike da Box! K

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, it is difficult to know the true intentions of Ken Ellerbe until those very close at top start talking.  This has been discussed many times before on different forums.  He knows full well how to defuse racial tensions, but tthis has become secondary from defusing the culture within the DCFD.  This ultimately mean displacing non-resident whites AND a few blacks who are looking at the City as a place for a firefighting career and replacing it with potential voting block non-experienced high-school youth, which is exclusively black.  I don't know why anyone should be suprised at this, considering the number of blacks that said they got rid of Fenty and would do the same to Gray, if didn't understand that minority economic interests come first.  The hypocracy is that Gray addressed the fact the City was changing and everyone should come to grips with it.  
    Everyone except his Fire Chief / FEMS Admin, of course.
    Oh, the Rosenbaum Task Force Recs are something to be hidden behind despite the all the posturing that this is the driving force.  If this is the case, and all of Ken Ellerbe's actions will be met with resistance and eventual catastrophe. City Council? Mendelson is lip service to labor and not interested on how Ellerbe plays his game as long as the culture changes and City residents will vote for him.  He has no clue about what it means to be a firefighter or paramedic and will never go after a black fire chief who harasses his subordinates.  Catania wants to take the beds out of the stations.  What do you say to a guy like that? 
    Here's the game.  Neither Local 36, the majority of the white AND black members which have nothing but contempt for Ellerbe,  nor Ellerbe himself will back down.  Watch the contract negotiations;-) All but certain, Ellerbe is offering nothing at this point, just change by chaos and no financial incentives. 3-3-3 and 30% or 2-2-4 and 20?  Yeah, right, How about 2-2-4 and zippo.  Maybe create such a hostile work environment, that anyone with enough time will be begging for an early out.  Remake the Dept with "stars" who have little knowlege other than what the Order Book and a robotic ICS dictates.  Social engineering at its best.
    Sad, sad, sad.  Both sides will continue to play political racial games because the Administration brought the package into play.  This is a train wreck and it's coming, unless Ellerbe is gone.  Citizens have NO idea.

  • Anonymous

    Can somebody please explain to me why it is so hard to find a competent fire chief in our Nation's Capital?? Rubin=joke. Ellerbe=scumbag racist. I just don't get it.

    • Frankie goes hollywood

      AMEN Anonymous you are correct, It seems like we would be better to put a help wanted poster on craigslist

  • 1dctaxpayer

    How are you going to address the racial issues within the Department?
    Well we just paid two classes that have been getting the wrong pay for years?
    WTF is this guy Ronnie Few, P.S. Ellerbe don't speek to the media anymore you sound like the idiot you are. Let the P.I.O. handle the interviews,  LOL! Oh well enough said.

  • STOP, Beatin around de bush!

    "Can somebody please explain to me why it is so hard to find a competent fire chief in our Nation's Capital?? Rubin=joke. Ellerbe=scumbag racist. I just don't get it"
    Ooh, can I answer that?………. Because, either they suckin up to the Mayor or they in it for ther OWN personnal gain! (or both!) instead of doing whats best for the FIRE/EMS Service, the Employees of the D.C.F.D. and the Citizens of D.C.
    Remember, You can't be a Politition in charge of the Fire Department, it puts Firefighters and Civilians at risk!