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More from DC: Chief Kenneth Ellerbe denies charges of intimidation & retaliation. Demoted & transferred battalion chiefs tell TV reporter otherwise.

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Chief Ellerbe responds to Curt Varone’s column at

Read more about transfer of Battalion Chief Kevin Sloan

Read more about demotion of Battalion Chief Richard Sterne here & here

Previous coverage of Chief Ellerbe

Previous coverage of beer incident

Gary Nurenberg,

The two most senior battalion chiefs in the D.C. fire department say they have been the objects of retaliation and retribution because they decided personnel cases contrary to the wishes of D.C. Fire EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe.

The dispute began last summer when a grateful D.C. resident appeared at a U Street fire station with two 12-packs of beer he had purchased as a way to offer his thanks to firefighters for extinguishing a fire at his home.

Told by firefighters that they could not accept the gift, the resident put the beer on the floor of the firehouse, and left.

When the beer was discovered by department leaders, three firefighters were charged with violating department rules, and faced the possibility of suspension.

Richard Sterne presided over two of the cases.

“I considered all the facts. I listened to what they had to say and I made a decision. Apparently the fire chief or somebody didn’t like my decision,” Sterne told 9News Now.

Instead of suspending the firefighters, Sterne chose to give them letters of reprimand. His superiors believe department rules demanded harsher punishment.

He was demoted in rank to captain. At the time he was the senior battalion chief in the department.

” 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 and responsibilities,” Ellerbe wrote to Sterne in his letter of demotion.

“I think the message is intimidation. I think the message isn’t to me necessarily, it’s to all the other chiefs and officers who have to make independent decisions that you better make a decision that you think is what the fire chief wants,” Sterne said.

“It definitely gives the appearance that our members can’t get a fair hearing,” said Ed Smith, President D.C. Firefighters Association, Local 36.

Battalion Chief Kevin Sloan, the second longest-serving battalion chief in the department, presided over a third case and also did not impose harsh punishment. He was transferred.

“I’m an expert in incident command, rail emergencies, hazardous materials responses,” he said.

“And what are you doing now?” asked 9News Now.

“I’m the battalion chief in charge of toilet paper,” he said.

Ellerbe denies charges of intimidation and retaliation.

“Nobody angered me. We want our employees to do what’s right. There’s no reason for anybody to be afraid of making the right decision,” he told 9News Now.

Ellerbe said he could not specifically respond to Sterne’s complaints.

“Sterne’s complaints are being heard by the Office of Employee Appeals, and that’s where we’ll have to let that case work it’s way out,” he said.

“Regarding Chief Sloan, he was not demoted. His transfer was contemplated weeks before it was effected, and weeks before he made any disciplinary decision.

“I was unaware of the decision he made when his transfer was effected, so it was not a matter of retaliation or anything like that.

“We want to give some of our employees the opportunity to work in different areas, and he had been in operations for many years, and we just changed him into an administrative position when an employee who was in that administrative position was out in operations,” Ellerbe said of Sloan’s transfer.

“The culture now is a culture of fear. It’s a culture of intimidation. It’s a culture of zero morale, which you do not want on a public safety force,” Sloan maintained.

“The battalion chiefs are not going to be able to give them (accused firefighters) a fair trial because they are afraid of retaliation and retribution,” Sloan said.

“There is no fear and hopefully there is definitely not any intimidation,” Ellerbe said.

Both Sloan and Sterne are pursuing legal remedies.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • somebody

    Keep on diggin there ole kenny boy! This one trick pony never ceases to amaze. Someone help me with out with line of thinking…..”I’ll take two of my most decorated, battle proven, and senior battalion chiefs, and put one at the slowest truck company in the city (after demoting him), and the other in charge of toilet paper.” If the American fire service is the standard to which all others in the world aspire to, what does it say, when this clown “runs” the fire department of the NATIONS CAPITOL?!! And what really stumps me, is how he could make these rash decisions when he surrounds himself with some the brightest and free thinking individuals in the department (if you can’t pick up the sarcasm, you obviously don’t work for the DCFD). It never bodes well for an organization, when a figure head comes in saying “I’m going to make decisions that aren’t going to be popular among some of the members” When in fact he should have said “I’m going to make decisions that 95% of you can see right through, because they are petty and juvenile. And don’t worry there won’t just be one or two of these great decisions. I’ll put out some bs memo or special order virtually EVERY WEEK, sometimes even twice and three times a week, just to remind you lowly firemen who is in charge around here. Because I’m really smart! If you don’t believe me, look on my wall and let my diploma from UDC do the talking!”… least then we could say, “hey, he warned us.”

  • Joseph Carroll

    Fire Service leaders should realize that they are not exempt from the laws in place, look at the case in LA where Capt Frank Lima prevailed after a retaliation situation was put on him. A $4.1 million settlement certainly opened the eyes of Capt Lima’s supervisors. Work place assignments is clearly listed in the EEOC guidelines as one of the forms of discrimination. Let Chief Ellerbe continue on his route of destruction! He won’ be the 1st Chief put in his place!

  • David Pfeil

    Chief LRB….liar,liar pants on fire…..LOL

  • Anonymous

    The Fire Chief is more polished when responding to the media than ever. The sly liar. The problem that nobody seems to know is that he is not really in charge anymore. Paul Quander does not like the FD and running the show. The Medical Director, Miramontes, is collapsing the emergency medical system. The Asst Chief of Operations, Gerhart, is playing along with this destruction and therefore, complicit in the whole process. So, what is worse, fear and intimidation (no intimidation, Kenny? LOL) or chaos. The whole group needs to be sacked by someone and the leadership of the Department replaced.

  • retired medic

    did the Chief eventually hand out harsher punishment to the firehouse crew after deciding that their original discipline was too little? He obviously held the Battalion Chiefs accountable for his feeling of “too little was done.” If not, then he was contradictory in his actions. Did he feel that subjecting the crew to further discipline (that he criticized the Battalion Chiefs for not doing) would subject himself to criticism from the public and politicians?


    No doubt Joseph….and the more officers and Chiefs that believe their transfer/demotion is retaliatory or discrimination, they should step up like the 2 DCFD Chiefs have and for once, set a standard so nobody else has to go through what they’ve gone through….Same goes with the rank n file fireman….if you take it in the rear, then the next guy will get the same……I realize the fight isn’t in everyone, but the less we do about the Ellerbe’s in the Fire Service, the more they get away with…..

    Dave…I can’t believe you said that….your silly…hehehe

  • Oh Lord

    DCFD…you need to get a Charlie Leduff on your side!

  • Sad for our Dept.

    @Retired Medic-Per the disciplinary process in the DCFD, charges referred to a Battalion Fire Chief’s Conference (as were these two cases) can result in a penalty up to 72 hours suspension. The Fire Chief must sign off on it and can only dismiss or decrease the decision. He cannot increase it. I agree with BFC Sterne’s(Captain- FOR NOW)assessment that this message was not meant for him but the many other BFCs who can’t retire. I am a BFC and although Ellerbe’s actions will not change my decision making, I will expect some type of negative action if I don’t rule the way he wants. This was absolutely meant to influence the other BFCs through intimidation and will have a disparate effect on the disciplinary proces for Bargaining Unit members (Firefighter-Captain).

  • Former DC Medic

    Why didn’t they just interview the guy who actually left the beer in the first place? I’m sure he/she would have said it was an honest gesture… Moronic Chief

  • welcome to our world

    welcome to our world

  • welcome to our world

    For one I thought anyone can be transferred @ anytime in this department. It’s funny how soon we forget when once upon a time a chief was transferred to the basement of grimke incharge of nothing.What about members being over looked for promotion just because.Oh and let us not talk about manipulation of the disciplinary process by yours truly. You see DCFD this is what weve been going through for a long time, but we were just whining huh.What you need to do is stop being disrespectful on these sites. If you dont agree with the chief policies there are other avenues you can take to address the situation. All this harsh, childish disrespectful rhetoric is only making it worse for everybody.Why do members act like low morale was just invented. News flash it was terrible 4-5yrs ago. There is a certain chief who was crushing members on trial boards and he wants someone to feel sorry for him, (pahleeze)! As the title says welcome to our world

  • http://NeedstobeSaid needs to be said

    DC, Philly, Detroit – all wreak of reverse discrimination. Lawsuits will fix this problem!

  • cladcromwell

    Former Medic: Because the facts are meaningless. The petty tyrant saw an oppurtunity to subvert a disciplinary system that did not help him advance his agenda. He also wanted the chiefs to be a part of his grand scheme.
    Remember; the ultimate goal is elected office. The voters in DC should be paying close attention to his erratic and dysfunctional management style.

  • 1dctaxpayer

    Seems a little lady that got moved from V street when LRB showed up, has been seen talking to the media. OUCH!

  • Fire3man

    Please! Please ! someone pull the handle down and flush this turd (LRB) down the bowl one and for all!

  • ukfbbuff

    Kenneth Ellerbe apparently has been given the “Go Ahead” by someone higher up over him to Break Down the DCFD Firefighters
    in an apparent Anti-Union “Autocracy”.

    The Battalion Chief Disciplinary Actions are an example of this.

    (His actions seem to be similar to that of the current Chief of the Philadelphia, Penn., FD, where their seems to be no consistency).

    Calling for Ellerbe’s removal is easy to call for, but unless the one/s who hired him are not voted out of office first, he will remain as an:

    Untreatable Plague on the DCFD

  • Lets be honest

    why doesnt anyone like this guy? is it because he’s smart? arrogant? black? or what? it shouldnt matter at the end of the day we’re all fire fighters and we serve a responsibility to protect the “Nations Capital”. If you dont like your job….QUIT…it just that simple.
    Besides, lets be honest, if this situation was different as it was a few years ago, where “others” were getting slammed and transfered for no reason at all, nope of you would be complaining. no of you were in uproar when Rubin was chief and he couldnt manage a piggy bank, trial boards were rigged based on discrimination, transfers were approved based on legacy and idiots got promoted through connections. so stop fooling yourselves, payback is a bitch you know. you may want to put into consideration to treat people fairly from now on.

    • Anonymous

      Lets be honest: It doesn’t make it right then and it doesn’t make it right now. You want “get back?” Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, if you want to keep breaking glass, we can keep breaking glass.

      First, the worst thing is to be a hypocrite. Ken Ellerbe has surely become one.

      Second, the Rubin/Schultz nepotism and self-righteousness, which was confused as racism, set the stage for this nonsense. We’ve talked about this a million times about these clowns. It was a reflection of Fenty and Nichols and their self-righteous form of accountability.

      Third, Thompson (dumb as a bag of nails), Doug Smith and Bill Fitzgerald, who were gereat guys as firemen, but self-righteous and incapable leaders at the top, set the stage prior to Rubin. People have short memories on how this disfunction happened.

      Fourth, you got it wrong about QUITTING, pal. This is that stupid mentality that has prevailed for more than two decades in the DCFD – if you don’t like it quit.

      We have a responsibility to serve which is the same responsibility to make it better for the men and women to DO THEIR JOB. this means fighting for better working conditions, “mitigating,” for lack of a better word, a hostile work place, a decent contract, and the ability of officers to run their subordinates after they have been sufficiently educated.


    Welcome to our world….ill meet you halfway and agree that the previous administration was out of line and yes, they too had their favorites and a disciplinary system unlike no other I’ve ever seen….However my friend, the current administrator had all the right reasons to take this department and do great things, considering the job was given to him on a silver platter…..

    We understood the immediate demotions of Rubins former AFC’s, who in my opinion should have been canned, but it didn’t stop there and so the childish paybacks, intimidation, vindictiveness nature this man was well known for in his past, resurfaced and all he’s proven to everyone is, he hasn’t changed one bit.

    You’re correct too in that the previous administration, specifically the former AFC/Ops, transferred people he did and didn’t like at a moments notice. The question here is, does it make it any better that the current administrator continues this pattern when he in fact he told everyone he would be fair and transparent???? Remember, One City One Government….level playing field for all…..yeah right….

    this whole beer incident is petty and if you think Ellerbe walked into Engine 9 out of nowhere AND JUST HAPPENED TO OPEN their refrigerator because he was hungry and what do you know…there’s a case of beer…..come on man…this is the childish BS, intimidation etc…that this cat’s about….Leaders who oversee a force of over 2000 people don’t have time for this nor would most stoop this low to do something like this, but when your SOLE mission is retribution, paybacks, retaliation etc., this is the type of behavior one resorts too…..And when he’s not doing stuff like this, he’s following apparatus and stopping them (ILLEGAL) to enforcing dress code violations….Come on were not a friggen modeling agency, were fireman….who cares if a shirts not tucked all the way in or a buttons undone…..this crap is petty BS, but a high priority for this person…..When you were never a fireman to begin with, you resort to what you know how to do and your seeing what he can do and its really sad….

    So if you’re sitting back taking it all in as relief to what occurred in your eyes the last 4-5 years, then shame on you…you should be as disgusted as the majority of the department is with this vindictive, bi polar hypocrite….He has done no better than his previous predecessors and in fact, is probably the worst Fire Chief the DCFD has ever had and both of us, along with the rest of the members, will suffer for years due to the destruction this clown left behind….so enjoy what little time he has left here, because it ain’t gonna last much longer hoss!!!

  • Anonymous

    Reading the comments it seems the majority here speak of intimidation, retaliation, and given the issues at hand somewhat of a racism isuue in the work place. It has been noted Ellerbee has demonstrated himself to a low level of any Professionalism. What appears to speak volumes of his tenure; (1) there was a BFC who couldhave/shouldhave been allowed to carryout any disciplinary actions. (2) The Transfer of another of one of the best BFC’s in DC Fire and EMS was unwarranted. Again this BFC should have been the necessary support by Ellerbee. To date Ellerbee has initiated and spoke of undenialable words to offset allegations against him. The fact that Ellerbee has no confidence in the Professionalism and skills of his Chief Officers is plain and simple pathetic. What Ellerbee has done and continues to do everyday is create and support workplace disharmony. This quite the opposite of TEAM BUILDING as any real Top Level Manager/Chief should do.
    The comments by “Legal Beagle” seem to speak volumes of someone who doesnot know anything about FIRE and EMS Dept. Management. I would question the Legal authority of this individual as an Attorney. Ellerbee what in the world is wrong with you? Stop all the intimidation retaliation you have been so pushing. Do you understand you are doing nothing but destroying what is a Time Honored Image of one of the very Best Fire and EMS Depts. in our Country. None of the individuals whom you decide to replace Stern and Sloan have the experience, skills and ability to function as a True professional in Fire Ground Tactics/Stategy.
    “Come on Ellerbee, get it together now”

  • JustMeDCFD

    Come on guys, if you don’t like the Fire Chief because he’s black just say so. Stop this nonsense because it makes you “Golden Boys” look really weak; this issue is not fire ground related, therefore if ANY Fire Chief says he feels like an officer should take a different approach to discipline then that officer should take it. That is the job of an officer – to enforce the Fire Chief’s rules and regulations as he sees fit; not how you want them to be. So now in all firehouses we just accept beer?? Then if we don’t like the rules we go crying to media? Have you really been hurt that badly? Did Chief Ellerbe violate any of your rights – other than the right to whine?? The citizens of DC could care less about 2 well paid guys from another city/state whose only investment in DC is transporting their paycheck across state lines (LOL I like that one).

    Anyway I would love to go on and bring up a plethora of DCFD history of unfair disciplinary practices and how blah… blah… blah… but then I would only sound like Sloan or Stern. I will say to those two to stand up for whatever you believe in no matter how stupid.

    Oh, the whole line is…… stand up for whatever you believe in no matter how stupid and watch what happens when something of importance really takes place. This truly demonstrates that you guys clearly don’t know how to pick and choose a battle…I guess Chief Ellerbe was right, you don’t make good decisions (LMAO) but oh well, nobody else cares except the other guys who rode 2hrs just to get to the union meeting with you.

  • 1dctaxpayer

    Ha! Ha! Thanks for the response Just me DCFD sounds like you are the brother of LRB. If you had a brain and needed brain surgery I hope you hold out for a doctor who is a DC resident.
    Carma is a bitch.

  • Anonymous

    ” The Transfer of another of one of the best BFC’s in DC Fire and EMS was unwarranted. ”


  • welcome to our world

    If I didnt know any better you would think according to the post, that the majority of the members are against Chief Ellerbe. It’s obvious that theres a certain demograhic that doesnt like Ellerbe’s presence. You all knew when Ellerbe returned that most or alot of what was going on was over.Thats why certain members high taled out of here Dec. 2010. JustMeDCFD I agree with you,I just wish more would come on here and voice their opinion as adamant as his adversaries.There are alot of people who dont care to post their opinion here but,let me tell you there are plenty who support the chief.Anyone can be transferred @ anytime that is the culture and the TRADITION of this department regardless of the reason. Lets get back to why some detest Ellerbe’s return

    1.No more someone at the top looking out for you because you play bag pipes.
    2.No more monopolizing prime assignments(firehouses)
    3.No more treating the firehouse like the tick house(unprofessional and stupid games).
    4.You will be held accountable for not making the right and proper decision.
    Just to name a few. Lets be real about this no leader is going to be right and just all the time, because Ive havent seen one yet.It appears that since a certain demographic is not in control and running things they cant handle it.I wish for fair treatment for all members but thats a perfect world huh?.We dealt with unfairness and discrimination for years on this job,but yet I didnt hear no one speaking out against that.Complaining about a transfer is a little lame dont you think?. If that was a legitimate gripe whew! we would never get anything accomplished.So I say do your job take care of your men,follow the rules set forth by your superiors whether you agree or not.That is the hallmark of a functional organization discipline and order.Think about it are you making it better being disrespectful?, or should you channel your energy in a more productive manner.Whats the old adage (you get more bees with honey versus vinegar).No not kissing upto no one but be more constructive in your comments.Theres alot of smart and intelligents members on this job,lets start showing it.

    • somebody

      Wow, how’s that kool-aid taste “brother”?. We are tired of a hostile work place environment. And stop beating around the bush, you wanna be PC, POS. We all know what demographic you are referring to. It seems interesting to me to hear you speak of “years of oppression” in the dcfd, when Dennis Rubin was the first white fire chief in nearly 30 years. The fact is, you and the rest of his little bitches, snitches, and kool-aid drinking suckers love the fact that you can beat down and mess with the “ones who play the bag pipes” as you so eloquently put it. Do we want a unified department? No doubt. But don’t sit here or your BS high horse, acting as if justice is being served. Do you want to work 3-3-3? Can you not see right through this corrupt mayor, majority of the city council, and the “FEMS Administrator?” But who cares, right? As long as you get that promotion, that you have been passed over for so many times, (must not have anything to do with your actions on the job)…you got the right guy in charge….HA

      • welcome to our world

        @ somebody says, I dont like koolade I drink gatorade u out of shape POS!

  • Welcome to our world

    At Somebody says

    We can go on and on all day talking about who is stupid,smart,incompetent,intelligent,etc.. all day long. Truth of the matter is all I see is some members trying to make excuses for others not following the rules. Dont want to continue to beat a dead horse but you cant even defend the beer in the firehouse period. Okay I’ll give you the fact that beer isn’t an illegal substance in society,but it is in the firehouse. It was bad judgement by the officer and members of that company.Second thing, how could some of you have the audacity to defend the actions of LT. A..He was clearly out of line at the training school. So lets see if a LT. can defy a chief officer order,than a F/F should be able disregard the orders of that LT. Why are we fighting over issues when the members are clearly wrong. Rules are set in place for a reason if you choose not to follow them than you have to pay the price.Oh and yes Rubin may have been the first white chief in years,but the fire chief doesn’t run the day to day ops of the department.It’s obvious that there are some racial issues in this department and they are manifesting everday.Just look at some of the post REALLY?.I ask you and others on here did you speak up when shultz was a tyrant transferring at will.Did you speak up when others were steamed rolled as a result of the disciplinary system.Did you say hey how come others aren’t getting the opportunity to ride on the squad or be assigned to so called primed spots.I don’t want to be part of a department that has these problems, this is 2012 we should be better than this.As I stated before concentrate your energy on trying to make something positive for the department.All this bickering is getting old and is letting the nation know how divided we are. Dcfd lets polish up our act get it together and stop this madness on these sights.

  • Welcome to our world

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