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Capt. Ed Smith, president of IAFF Local 36, told reporters Andrea Noble and Matthew Cella of The Washington Times, “It’s not about me, it’s about the union as an organization and our protective rights.” The comment came following a recent arbitrator’s ruling that Capt. Smith was unlawfully retaliated against by DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe when Smith was suddenly transferred from Rescue Squad 1 to Engine 7 in July 2011.
Last Friday FireLawBlog.com’s Curt Varone first published the 29-page report from the arbitrator. Now the reporters have interiewed the union president and attempted unsuccessfully to get comments from Chief Ellerbe.
Arbitrator Leonard Wagman with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service wrote the report. Here are some excerpts based on Wagman’s findings following the testimony from Smith, Ellerbe and others:
I find that Chief Ellerbe’s and the Department’s responses to Captain Smith’s request for an explanation were evasive, amounting to a statement that “we did it because we can.”
I find that the real reason was to retaliate against Captain Smith for engaging in union activity as president of Local 36, the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of the Department’s employees.
In his efforts to come up with a lawful explanation for his decision to transfer Captain Smith, Chief Ellerbe hastened to Smith’s firehouse on Sunday, July 3, in the midst of the Independence Day weekend, to search for some flaw in the Captain’s performance of duty
In its effort to escape a finding that its decision to transfer Captain Smith was motivated by his protected union activity the Department has gone from evasion to shifting reasons for its conduct.
The article brings up other instances where DC Fire & EMS Department officers have claimed retaliation by the chief. These include the cases of Lt. Robert Alvarado, Battalion Chief Richard Sterne and Battalion Chief Kevin Sloan. More from The Washington Times:
While the ruling in Capt. Smith’s case illustrates the most clear-cut charge of retaliation by the fire chief that has been upheld, other firefighters have made similar complaints about retaliatory behavior.
The arbitrator’s ruling in Capt. Smith lends more credibility to the other complaints, Capt. Smith said.
“It’s solidified all these complaints on the chief,” he said. “They have been upheld by a third-party arbitrator. He is about retaliation.”