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Arbitrator rules DC fire union prez unlawfully transferred by chief. Capt. Ed Smith says Kenneth Ellerbe ‘is about retaliation’.

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Two battalion chiefs go public with claims of retaliation & intimidation by Chief Ellerbe

IAFF Local 36 press release

Read the decision from arbitrator Leonard Wagman

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’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.”

Read entire article from The Washington Times


Comments - Add Yours

  • Lackluster Star

    How much more is it going to take before he is asked to resign?

  • Anonymous

    A new mayor in office.

  • firefighthero

    “Arrogance is a creature. It does not have senses.
    It has only a sharp tongue and the pointing finger.”
    ― Toba Beta

  • FMCH

    I feel for our brothers and sisters in DC. The city seems to have a habit of hiring some really bad chiefs.

  • Aardvark

    LRB and his antics are the very reason why we need unions…….to protect us from the whims and nonsense of certain “leaders”, bean counters, and misguided politicians.

  • the ear

    Great news for Ed Smith.I am sure the other complaints will be rectified. Ellerbe needs to go.This is another embarrasment to the mayor.Let’s see what happens next to this “clown”.

  • retired medic

    so sad that our nation’s capital has such a series of leadership “failures” in various positions. Oddly, folks elect mayors who are drug abusers and hire various city officials whose professional qualifications are found to be suspect. And the actions of some of those (and othe) officials lead me to wonder if they don’t realize they work within a fishbowl where every action (or inaction) comes under scrutiny? And will the city have to pay out money in lawsuit settlements resulting from the actions of some city officials? Money that should be put to better uses than to pay for the callous errors made by those who are responsible for the safety of the citizens.

  • must stay underground

    The practice of transfering staff to other fire companies has been an ongoing operation for many years in the fire service.Someone speaks out or has a bump in the road you get transfered to a place far from your home. This is sad that people pay taxes for this type of poor managers. You can not begin to call this leadership. This type of actions remind me of what Pres.Ragan was trying to stomp out. Sleep lightly they will come in and carry you off away from your family. It is about time this practice is totally exposed in the fire service.Many members are scared to preform their duties,you never know who is watching or keeping a file on you which is exposed at transfer meetings. Please this practice must be stopped in order to find out how good your people are. Remember,the members can make you look good as well. I hope by writing this I am not the next on the list.Let the public know their taxes fund this type of operation. I am not kidding we live in fear! Dave if i am next you ,ACLU and your readers will be the first to know !!

    • Doing it.

      Break out the tin foil hats.

  • Retired Chief

    Did this POS ever work in busy fire companies as a Lt, Capt, BC? It is apparent that he has no common sense in decision making.

    • DCFDmember

      LRB has served very little time in his career actually responding to calls, at any rank. He has spent the majority of his career in administrative positions.

  • hydro engineer

    This administrator can do what ever he likes and we will continue to expose him. The citizens of this great city can be rest assured that they will continue to receive the best care and performance from the members of our Union, regardless of his efforts to bully us and retaliate against us. If you call, We will come, if you need help, We are there. We work for you, THE CITIZENS of D.C., NOT HIM!! He works for the Mayor and you can ask him to replace him. Not a Sermon just a thought!?!?

    • xray

      Who does the mayor work for? So if the mayor works for the citizens than his appointee works for the same.I dont think the chief loyalty to this community is questionable.Some of you hmmm?


    For whatever reason, this should set the tone for those who’ve already endured the retaliation rath of King Ellerbe….From Alvarado to Chief Sloan, I hope they sue him in his official capacity on top of the District Government for allowing such an inept person to lead an agency such as the Fire Department.

    Nobody should have to come to work where morale is at an alltime low, retire because they can’t tolerate what is going on or have an attitude of looking forward to 0700 the next day, when its only 0705 and you’ve just started your shift all because of one persons agenda…And for those who support this clown or bow to his beck and call and don’t stand up to this everyday nonsense, shame on you for allowing it to continue…

    If your one of these people presently who are sitting back enjoying the show because of the last administration, then you’ll be remembered long after the King is gone…and trust me, WE all know who you are….I too was no fan of the previous administration, but this one here makes me want to vomit and the sad thing here is it didn’t have to be like this….

    This is also the type of person who gets appointed to a position such as Fire Chief, when a National search isn’t conducted by the Mayor to hire the best candidate for the job, whereas the only requirement for this position, was to be a childhood friend of Vince, a campaign contributor to Gray for Mayor or be a friend of a friend of Vince….

    From this day forward, hopefully nobody else will have to tolerate this kind of behavior from someone who hasn’t a clue about the day to day operations of the department nor has any idea how to take care of his own people. The only thing I’ve seen that he’s capable of is how to act like a vinidictive child who got his lunch money taken from him when he was a child and now that he’s all grown up, he’s gonna settle the score……How sad a person is to act in this manner when all the members do is come to work each and everyday to protect the citizens and visitors of the Nations Capital…

    I wonder if its possible to oneday have a leader that leads, rather than leads by fear, intimidation and retaliation…..And shame on you MR MAYOR for allowing one of your appointees to act in this manner….You still think he’s doing a great job Vince?????


    Gray says its a personnel matter that Ellerbe needz to address….REALLY Vince….your the boss man and your amswer for one of your subordinates who was found GUILTY of retaliation is for him to address the issue himself…Do you expect him to put himself on charges, then go on leave without pay….lol….What a freaken circus show this is….Hey Vince..why dont you write something in the DPM thats says, if any of my appointees is found guilty of retaliating against any of their employees, I won’t hold them accountable….

  • ukfbbuff

    Another Ellerbee “Fail”.

    And how much in $Litigation Damages will the City pay out for this “Clown” Chief?

  • Anonymous

    Everyone needs to make sure they’ve signed the Ethics Pledge!

  • mdff

    Plaintiff lawyers (Ed Smith, Alvarado, Sloan, others…) approach defendent Ellerbe (DC Government)lawyers; if Ellerbe goes and all charges/demotions are recinded and erased from the record we will drop any present or future law suit regarding these matters. Seems pretty easy way to get rid of this pretend leader.

  • watchdogdc

    This guy should have never been placed in the position he is in. His record prior to his appointment showed he had character a ethical issues. He was guilty of trying to defraud the taxpayer out of 600,000 dollars in retirement benifits he was not eligible to collect, he was found to have filed false tax returns which is a crime claiming a 69,000 dollar homestaead tax exemption for his home in Southeast DC which by law must be your primary residence while he was working and living in Florida. He also has complaints of sexual harassment levied aginst him while working in Florida that are documented and substantial enough to be alled in and counseled by his bosses for his actions. Then upon arrival in the agency has done nothing but manage by intimidation and bully style tactics that are now coming back to bite him. We can only hope that this ruling will expidite decisions from other complaints filed against him by others he has tried to bully since his appointment by means of cronyism by his buddy Vince who will also be gone soon. For the department members who have been around long enough to remember in 2000 when Ellerbe was appointed as the interim Chief he acted in the same manner only to have all of his vendictive actions reversed by the newly appointed Chief that was chosen over Ellerbe then because it was seen the he was not the best person for the job not then not now not ever that is why his buddy vince did not do any kind of search for quilified candidates to replace the Dennis Rubin because he knew anybody that applied who show to be a better choice than ELLERBE than he would have more explaining to do about his cronyism appointments.

  • xray

    Well lets go back and revisit past transfers from previous administations.Was it retaliation when shultz transferred personnel or was it random. I think we all should challenge a transfer from here on out if we dont like it. I think the Capt would not have had a problem if he went to Hazmat,another squad or a so called glory company.I beleive the problem you have with chief Ellerbe goes beyond his policies. Your not going to have it your way all the time didn’t your mom teach you that. This department is full of selfish,arrogant,always want to have it their way cry babies.When the last regime was here I dont recall this much friction from the rank and file. I see how it goes as long as im ok the department is fine.If you want to know how bad the department was back then,dont just ask members in your circle.Talk to others who dont follow your train of thought and you will get a different perspective.Iknow you still going to believe morale wasnt that bad back then because it was great for you.Learn to follow the rules and policies of your agency and you wont have a problem.Another problem with this department is members think the department should be ran how they see fit.When you become chief than you can administrate the way you want to.Until than set an example by following your superiors so that junior members have a clear understanding of order and discipline.Can you truly expect subordinates to follow you if you cant and will not obey your superiors.That is the basic foundation of an organization having structure,discipline,order and members willing to do whats right.I dont personally see what the big deal is now has the schedule changed?.You are crying over petty stuff like “T”shirts and what is printed on the back of it.I think alot of you care more about the letters dcfd than you do about serving the public.What a smoke screen.

  • L-2546 Fire Fossil

    I am so proud of brother Ed Smith for standing up for his members and there protected rights. I am especially pleased that a nuetral third party was able to evaluate the facts (without emotion or agenda) to get to the “truth”. The obvious finding of retaliation was simply the tip of the iceberg. The illegitimate transfer was found to be a vindictive retaliation for Ed bravely exposing some of the real issues within the Department. Unsafe equipment, reduced staffing, ambulances without climate control, employer threats, harrassment of personnel,and putting Firefighters in harms way to augment police efforts were but a few of the examples that are products of this psuedo Fire Chief’s record. A true leader does not lead by fear and intimidation to feed an unsatitiable appetite for recognition and authority. Rather, he sets the tone through his own professionalism and self sacrifice for the over all good of his employees, the Fire/EMS Dept and the citizens they serve. While these qualities appear absent from the current Fire Chief, I do find these quality traits in your President Ed Smith.
    DCFD brothers and sisters, if you want to be rid of the present day tyranny don’t just stand behind Ed, stand beside him and fight the good fight!

  • jstisntthesame

    XRAY I bet you voted for Obama.. Typical but not a shocker. Brown nosing can only last 4 years< but i m sure you will be able to come up for air before that

  • xray

    Yes I sure did vote for Obama,I would follow anyone who is just and fair. Your one of the people I speak of as long as your ok everyone else should be ok.I know you want the department back like it was(tea partier, hence want your country back).But you cant stop progress my friend.