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Latest from DC: Chief Kenneth Ellerbe moves forward with demotion of battalion chief over handling of discipline from beer incident at firehouse.

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Previous coverage of this story

Previous coverage of Chief Ellerbe

Previous coverage of beer incident

The Washington Times is reporting that DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is moving forward with the demotion of Battalion Chief Richard Sterne over Sterne’s handling of punishment for two firefighters who put beer brought by a grateful citizen into a refrigerator at the quarters of Engine 9 last September. Reporter Andrea Noble says Sterne received reduction in rank papers, effective April 8. The demotion to captain will cost Sterne about $12,000 each year. Sterne’s attorney is planning to appeal the order to the Office of Employee Appeals.

The firefighters, who refused to accept the beer, put it into the refrigerator to get it out of public view after the man left it anyway. The beer was found by Chief Ellerbe on a visit to the station. The chief ordered the station closed for two hours requiring firefighters to be tested for alcohol consumption. The tests were negative.

More from The Washington Times:

Punishment of 24-hour suspensions was proposed for two men working at the station, but disciplinary action was left to Chief Sterne. He issued reprimand letters to the two men after determining that “no intentional misconduct” occurred. 

“Your failure to hold the members accountable for their receipt of the beer in violation of the Rules of Conduct brings into question your ability to exercise proper judgment in the performance of your assigned duties,” Chief Ellerbe wrote to Chief Sterne in a January notice advising him of the proposed reduction in rank. 

Chief Ellerbe previously declined to speak about Chief Sterne’s proposed demotion because it was a personnel matter. He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Comments - Add Yours

  • dpfeilsr

    When the hell is this foolishness going to end….Why isn’t Congresswoman Holmes-Norton screaming about the actions of the Fire Chief, when she screams about everything else…..Members being burned, demotions, WTF….wake up citizens of DC….

    • DC Firefighter

      She’s related to LRB, that’s why.

      • DC Firefighter

        Or they’re close family friends I can’t remember which, but I know they’re tight and go way back to his childhood. I heard him bragging about it once when he was at 30 Engine.

  • Hozer

    That’s what happens when you “promote” a Chief by melanin content only and not brains. It’s happening all over the Country.

    Has this dope ever been in a burning building ???

  • ppfd

    How did the Chief know alcohol happened to be at this particular station?

    Best of luck BC Sterne!

    • pipeman

      Because he’s got punk a** moles throughout the dept.

    • somebody

      Oh, you mean that it’s not normal conduct for the “chief” of a major city department to go walking into firehouses and look through the refrigerator? No, some punk ass, good for nothing, tattle tale snitching ZERO, (excuse me, I believe the FEMS Administrator refers to them as his “shining stars”) gave ole chiefy a ring and tipped him off to the situation. Apparently, the name of the game is put all sense of doing the right thing down the crapper, “get yo’self up in dat proper uniform joint,” and rat out your fellow brothers for personal gain. Mr FEMS Administrator, go play in traffic! Chief Sterne has more ability to lead, more integrity, and more respect from the firemen in one finger than you have in your whole “wanna be kick boxer” body. But it will all be ok…all you need to do is get some more personal friends to go testify for you in front of the city council. And if you are unsure about your answers while UNDER OATH….well let’s just say that those of us who haven’t been living under a rock for the past year+, have some real questions about some of your answers given. Wake me up when this guy leaves!

      • DcFd 4 Lyfe

        Word had it there was a detail guy working…..a tour later LRB showed up…..Coiencidence? I think NOT.

  • 1 dc tax payer

    Chief Sterne is a respected leader, and above all else a firefighter first. Neither of which is LRB. his punk ass style of leadership will not last much longer. Chief Sterne will no doubt prevail and probally earn some big money in the end.
    Keep wasting the D.C. taxpayers money LRB. It seems that’s all the Gray adminstration knows.

  • mark

    This is ridiculous, it would be a tragedy to let beer get warm. What were they supposed to do with it?

    There’s a comment I’d really like to make, but in an extremely infrequent moment of good judgment, I’ll keep it to myself.

    Can someone please put this idiot out of our misery?

  • CLT_FF

    Wow…I’m getting tired of reading about this guy…he continues daily to do foolish things. Things that real ‘LEADERS’ tend to avoid. I know I lean more towards the FF side of the story here, being one myself – but this Chief is an a$$clown. He continues to spread the gap between the boots on the ground and him. Furthermore, where I come from (Military background and current public safety service experience) – you rely heavily on your front line leaders for discipline. He’s undermining the department everystep of the way. How is it that the DC Government doesn’t take notice to his ways? Take care DC brothers and sisters…we down south are watching, discussing and supporting you everyday. Keep your heads up. BC Sterne – you can lead me anyday.

  • Leglock

    E-dog tried to demote a Lt. for actions unbecoming an officer. The demotion was overturned and he got his rank back. This was in Sarasota County.

  • Stuart

    I am going to play devil’s advocate here…1) someone brings beer to a firehouse where you KNOW the chief has eyes and ears. Why the &$%$$!!! would you stick it in a fridge easily found and seen by said chief? Seriously? Talk about poor judgement.
    2)your guys get busted for using extremely poor judgement with a chief who you know is out to find something. He tells you to discipline them and you know what he expects out it….then you don’t do anything close to that.

    Ok. So, as a neutral observer – the officers should have got the beer into a trunk or somewhere hidden. They know it violates policy. They were playing with fire if they knew there were snitches around. If you can’t help yourself, how’s someone else supposed to? The chief knew what his boss wanted but refused to comply? What did expect to happen?

    I’m not taking the Chief’s side but seriously…you work in a hostile environment and yet you continue to do something that you know is going to tick him off? It is what it is.

    • John V Pignataro

      So because he wants you to do it you do it? Even if it defies common sense?

      Really dude you are being serious at some point you have to nut up and do what is right!

      • Stuart

        Common sense? Do what is right?

        He’s not backing his men for making a split second decision based on their skill and experience. They had beer in the fridge at the hall. That’s not bad judgement…it’s complete stupidity. Especially given the atmosphere that they work in. They were just asking to get hammered by the chief.

        The Battalion Chief may be a great guy, great firefighter, great chief to the guys….but he works for the city and the Chief of the department. The city was embarrassed. The department has policies. His boss told him what he expected…let the firefighters appeal the suspensions and what happens happens.

        • DC Taxpayer

          I agree w/Stuart. Putting the beer in the fridge wasn’t the best thing to do. Pretty stupid. The beer should have been taken off the property not in the frig. You guys only set yourself up !

    • Burns

      Why would they have the poor judgement not to hide it better? Because they were NOT intentionally doing ANYTHING wrong. I don’t try and second guess my judgement about what is right, unless it isn’t. I’ve seen people offer just about anything to firefighters while at they’re station or out on a call. The person who offered the beer was doing what he thought was a good deed, and the firefighters in the station thought (and in my humble opinion, with no relation to DCFD, thought correctly) that they we’re doing the right thing as well.

  • Bull33

    You are a “professional department”. Don’t have beer in your station or expect dicipline period. No where else in the private sector would employees get away with all the bad mouthing of their boss with out being fired. If you don’t like where you work, go find somewhere else.

    • Must be Matthews

      Given the name, and the number…must be the one that started this whole deal. I love the smirk on your face at the moron’s State of the Department address. Just remember slim, when he is gone, you will still be here. No one will forget which side of the fence you played on!! Nor will they forget the fact that you cost one of the best Chief’s in the City his position…for the time being. That’s right Boo, you and your “Boys” know Chief Sterne will win this. You are so short sighted it isn’t even funny. Well bud, enough for now. I have to get back to the big boy job that we all have. You are Pathetic!!

    • firefighthero

      Hey dude, why doesn’t Ellerbe go find work somewhere else. He’s a butt hole. I think you may be also.

    • Anonymous

      Never gonna’ happen……where else will we make the money we’re making with just a GED/High School Diploma?

    • DC Taxpayer

      Ditto Bull33

  • 1 dc tax payer

    No where else would a so called chief of the department go around and tell young white firefighters they are going to loose their jobs, and he dosen’t care about them cause they dont live in the city. No other leader could treat females the way he does and get away with it.. and on and on. Stay tuned to the media much more to come in the next few weeks.

    • Anonymous

      More than you know…….

      • Tsk. Tsk.

        You heard the same thing too. Its going to get ugly.

  • imnotleavingdbag

    Stuart, you don’t have all the facts.
    1)The cheese eating c*** was just visiting for the day. He is not assigned to that house.
    2) The members tried to decline the gift.
    3)Our discipline system is pretty specific. Based on the facts of the case; Ch. Sterne followed these guidelines and refused to bow to pressure from Cmdr. Queeg. Sterne’s punishment fit the “crime”, not some egomaniac’s personal agenda.
    4)Ch. Sterne did not violate any rules. Cmdr. Queeg felt threatened by his inability to manipulate someone who is not a “rising star.”

    Keep watching; the best is yet to come.

    • Stuart

      I’m going to take this from the perspective of everywhere I have worked, including my present employer which is a large city department.

      If there is alcohol in the hall…someone is going to get days or get fired. If they put in the hall fridge…they accepted it. If they wanted to “hide it” from public view then put in the trunk of their car. If a 24 hr suspension is too much under your rules…then let them appeal it.

      As a chief officer, you responsibilities include maintaining the professional standards of your department and supporting the direction of your supervisors. He knew what was expected and he didn’t do it. If a firefighter did that to his captain then he would expect there to be fall out. If a chief does it to the Chief of the department he should expect there to be fall out. He sided with his guys which is commendable but he did at the expense of his boss. He thumbed his nose at HIS chief….whether or not anyone likes him or not. Do that in the police department, or the military, or in any real job in this country and you will pay a price.

      He might not have realized it would be so severe, but he knew something would happen. He is appealing it and if it is out of line then he’ll win his appeal.

  • Just Sayin

    There is no way anything will ever happen to the FEMS Administrator as long as his daddy’s buddy Gray is running the city … no one outside of our proud profession gives a crap what we say here … the only thing they see is the FEMS Administrator’s sycophants who wear a common ring parading in front of the city council to sing LRB’s praises … fight on brothers … some day this creep will be gone … unfortunatly it’s not yesterday … just sayin

  • Bullets

    Is beer allowed in the firehouse?

    No

    The BC or the house officer should have punished the FF before the DC even got a chance to walk in the door

    You are a professional department and if someone left a gift that IS NOT ALLOWED, those FF should have walked it straight out back and put it in the trash where it belongs

    • Anonymous

      they got punished stupid. A written reprimand is punishment

  • GROWSOME

    Just leave if you don’t like the way your treated, right or wrong…. Just do what pleases your boss, right or wrong…. WTF@#$????? This is America… Stand up for what is right. I’m sooo tired of hearing if you don’t like it leave. Get these crooks out of our government, weather it’s the chief, mayor or any official. They seal, lie and are out for them selves most of the time. If caught all they have to do is say I sorry and/or say I’ll pay if back. If a worker seals a trash bag, they get fired, if an official seals they get re elected. Look at Berry! Do what your hired to do, not just what please your boss.

  • Rob

    I cannot wait to see this guy get fired. What a tool. The best thing is that when he’s gone, his ‘rising stars’ will be left behind… no wind in their sails…

  • Bull33

    GED diploma at it’s best from growsome and firefighthero. Geeze.

  • Anonymous

    Seal? Is that navy or the animal? Sea this is what Lrb does, confuse’s and confounds the best of us. Good luck.

    • Anonymous

      GED at it’s best….

  • LT9DC

    Hey Bull
    The Lt. that called the Chief and reported the beer and the fact that it was diminishing throughout the day had a duty to act. Which he failed at. He jumped the chain of command by calling the Fire Chief instead of the BFC. He failed to place the company OOS and have them tested based on suspicion of alcohol use. See the Lt thinks he is gonna get brownie points for being a suck ass, but decent lawyers love when idiots like that do the things they do. I’m sure that LT thinks he is in a good spot with the chief, but I can assure you it’s not gonna end well for that snitch….Keep on Smiling Lt M……s your day is coming buddy…failure to act my be a violation bad enough to cause someone to be demoted…I think you should get use to Sgt M……s….

  • Anonymous

    Bull33 comments. You obviously speak with volumes that you support and condone the actions/inactions of Ellerbee. Get your facts straight. (1) The Beer wasnot placed in the Station with any intent to dink while on Duty. Your words speak of private sector not allowing beer etc in the work place. Yes that is correct by any measured standards of SOPs. The beer was given as aoofering of appreciation by a Taxpayer in the District of Columbia. Ellerbee and one of his “Shining Stars” being a Tattletale contacted Ellerbee. Ellerbee betrayed the Trust he’s supposed to have in his Senior Officers Staff. He dictated what he wanted. The BFC handled the Discipline with a Reprimand of the Firefighters. By Ellerbee speaking in a dictatorial fashion as is his way, told BFC how,what,when,who to discipline. That is exactly how he’s going to act when he promotes his brother and other boys from the hood. They willnot have to think. All they will have to do is call Ellerbee. it is a pathetic thing when the (alledged) Fire Chief so to speak, he’s not a Fire Chief he’s a mere individual in a position. The (alledged) Mayor covers for him hides Ellerbee behind his coat tails. This entire issue isnot at all reasonable. Ellerbee just wanted to exercise his paper
    authority. Ellerbee knows he tried this same situation to a Lieutenant in Sarasota and it was overturned. What do you have to say about that Ellerbee? Chief Stern will win his appeal Ellerbee. when he does he may even receive compensation. When the Mayor and Council look at Dollar signs Ellerbee, they will turn and look at you. They will dump you like the trash you are. Your continued behavior speaks volumes that you cannot manage a Church Picnic. You cannot lead a group of Ants to the Picnic area. Ellerbee Black Panther Racist, your merry band of shining stars of tattletales enjoy it while you can. “Remember What Goes Around Comes Around”

  • Anonymous

    “Remember What Goes Around Comes Around”

    It appears to be happening now

  • FLORIDA Brother in ARMS

    WHEN IS THE NONSENSE GONNA END WITH THIS KIND OF MIND SET. HE A FREAKING BULLY JUST ASK THE BROTHERS IN FLORIDA. HE NEEDS TO BE RUN OUT OF COUNTRY AND NEVER WORK IN THE FIRE SERVICE AGAIN !!!! JUST SAYING YOUR AN ASS~~~~~~