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Councilmember who once supported DC Chief Ellerbe calls for his resignation


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Also from STATter911: A failure to respond at all levels in the Nation’s Capital

David Grosso is the second member of the DC City Council to call for the resignation of DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. Grosso describes himself as having supported Chief Ellerbe until now. Grosso joins Mary Cheh, who first called for Ellerbe’s resignation last summer. Both Cheh and Grosso spoke with WTTG-TV/Fox 5 reporter Matt Ackland in the story above.

Another council member, Tommy Wells, who is running for mayor and heads the committee that oversees the fire department’s budget, made it clear to Ackland that Ellerbe would not be part of a Wells administration.

DC Ellerbe official

All of this comes as the crisis over the crew from Truck 15-2 failing to provide aid to a dying man heads into its second week of news coverage. The story has made national and international news.

As I pointed out last week, the continuing inept way this crisis is being handled by city leaders, including Chief Ellerbe, has helped allow the news cycle for this tragic situation to extend well beyond where it should. What Ellerbe and his boss, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander, fail to understand or don’t care to address, is that until they come forward and provide clear and decisive leadership, the story will continue to have legs.

DC West Australian man dies across from firehouse

The story of a man dying across the street from a DC firehouse has made news around the world.

A spokesman for Ellerbe is making excuses for the chief’s failure not only to address the press and the public about this incident, but in not providing vocal support for the 1800 or so uniformed employees of the department who know how to respond when a citizen comes to the firehouse seeking help.

More about Ellerbe from reporter Paul Wagner (watch Wagner’s story from today):

D.C.’s fire chief remained silent Monday on the investigation into the death of Cecil Mills and the firefighters who stayed inside their station despite repeated pleas for help.

Mills, 77, suffered a massive heart attack a week ago Saturday and later died.

The lifelong city resident and D.C. government employee waited at least nine minutes for an ambulance despite collapsing right across the street from the station in the 1300 block of Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast D.C.Two firefighters, including a lieutenant, have been placed on desk duty and a rookie has been transferred.

A spokesperson for the deputy mayor for public safety says the chief doesn’t want the investigation to be influenced by something he might say publicly.

The results of that investigation, including the reasons why the first ambulance was sent to the wrong quadrant of the city, are expected later this week or the beginning of next week.

The rookie firefighter, who told people trying to get help for Mills he couldn’t do anything without an order from his lieutenant and to instead call 911, has not been placed on desk duty and has instead been transferred to another station.

Meanwhile, the Mills family is now being represented by the Cochran law firm and a representative of that firm says there are plans to hold a news conference sometime this week


Comments - Add Yours

  • Fire21

    …shaking my head……

  • Scooter

    Great, DC leaders may be waking up…. The Chief should have been let go long before this occurred…. as they say past performances predict future performances! Strike Da Box! K

    • dcgovcorruption

      So, when an employee in the dc government fails to do their job the agency director or chief should resign?

      • DStatter

        No dcgovcorruption, it’s a combination of his failure to deal with the crisis of confidence that is now occurring and this being the latest in a series of issues in the department Ellerbe and Quander have been unable to properly handle. Read what I wrote both as responses to comments and my original posts. If it was just Rhode Island Avenue and the chief responded as a leader should, Ellerbe and most chiefs could weather the storm without anyone calling for their resignation. It’s the history of the last three years.

      • Ukfbbuff

        Being held accountable for his (in)actions over the time he has been in office leaving a track record that is hostile to those who disagree with him with the accompanying $ financial costs for his failure to
        Address issues while they’re small shows he is not running the DCFD with the best interests of the community

    • Typical DC BS

      Right, blame the fire chief when the problem is the poor education of firefighters, who are ALL union flunkies. Notice the lieutenant in charge that night resigned (at full pension, mind you), leaving the rookie to take the heat.
      Grosso is an imbecile, like Mary Cheh. Tommy Wells is on-board too? Whoop-de-do.

      • DStatter

        As I also told kdawgg2, typical DC BS, here’s the list of reasons to blame the chief. It’s the same pattern over and over again with Ellerbe. The council offered him money to address the fleet and maintenance issues that Chief Rubin (who I’m not a fan of) identified in his transition report. Ellerbe said he didn’t need money. The Rubealso identified the paramedic shortage and background checks for the new chief. Ellerbe ignored those issues until they became news headlines and the press was on his case.
        So, it isn’t just this incident. Chief Kenneth Ellerbe proven over three years he doesn’t have what it takes. Not one of those four issues is the fault of the union or the council. They are the fault of this chief choosing to ignore problems until they become a crisis.
        And what sets me off is his complete inability to handle the fallout when these incidents occur. Yes, Ken Ellerbe can’t control the actions of a lieutenant and her crew directly, but he could show a little leadership in handling the crisis that does occur because of the neglect that occurred on Rhode Island Avenue. Just as with the four other issues I cited, Ellerbe and Quander prove they are incapable of playing in the big leagues.

        • Typical DC BS

          Mr. Statter,
          I agree that Mr. Ellerbe’s response is inadequate. As you obviously are MUCH MORE knowledgeable about DC firefighting than me, I will defer to your judgement regarding the chief.

          • DStatter

            I would never make the claim that I’m very knowledgeable about DC firefighting. From covering the department since 1982, I do know a bit about the political end of it. More important, my experience in news has given me an understanding of effective ways to deal with the fallout from a crisis like this. Even though Ellerbe and Quander have a great deal of experience in the last three years in dealing with these image and reputation management issues, they have apparently learned nothing in the process. They continue to embrace the worst practices instead of the best. They continue to prove they are amateurs and don’t belong in the positions they hold.

          • Typical DC BS

            Give yourself credit – 30+ years of studying the issues re: DC firefighting gives you a leg up for certain.

      • Ukfbbuff

        So you support Ellerbe?

        He’s at the top of the organization and you’d rather accountability
        Stop at the rank- and-file level only ?

        What happened was incompetence at the station level , Ellerbes absence over the past two weeks is astounding

        Accountability starts with him

        The Union is not the problem just the incompetences that occurred that day

        • Typical DC BS

          I do not support Ellerbee. The question is who is to blame for a UNION member’s incompetence at the LOWEST LEVEL. The rookie, obviously, has most of the responsibility, then his direct supervisor, who just happens to be able to resign with a full pension and not have to answer for this fiasco. To assign ANY blame for this instance to the fire chief is laughable.
          HOWEVER, Chief Ellerbee can be castigated for his response. But I’m willing to bet that he can only discipline the UNION firefighter ONLY according to what I’m betting is a completely ludicrous “disciplinary process” that the firefighters union and their political hacks have put into place that will obstruct the IMMEDIATE FIRING that this firefighter DESERVES.
          In no other industry or profession (maybe policemen also have this stupidity protection working for them) would this situation not lead to immediate termination.

          • DStatter

            I am all for holding the folks at the company level responsible for their actions. But here’s how Ellerbe is to blame. It’s the latest in a series of issues that he has again shown he’s unable to handle. He failed to immediately order this crew off the street while the allegation was being investigated (or even after the lieutenant’s laughable defense). Ellerbe and Quander have allowed a two or maybe three day story to go for ten days and further erode the confidence of the public (locally and around the world). That and his failure to address so many other issues until his inaction creates a crisis are the reason he needs to be held responsible.

          • 19262007

            Actually Typical DC BS, you are correct in betting that DCFD’s “disciplinary process” is completely ludicrous. It is stacked in favor of the agency head, not the employee. Also, does it really matter if a member is UNION (your punctuation) or not? Your posts allude to an ant-union stance, which is fine, you are entitled to your opinion. It is, however, on record that the International Association of Firefighters local 0036, DC Firefighters Association, aka the UNION (your punctuation again), sounded the alarm on the lack of front line and reserve apparatus (the fire trucks/engines and ambulances), the 200 vacancies that exist within the department, the atrocious loss of paramedics within the department, the lack of recognition by the department to replenish those ranks, and all the other problems the department wishes would just go away, all of which directly affect public safety. You don’t think the city would acknowledge these deficits do you?
            As for immediate firing, I seem to recall, and only in private industry, that many obscenely compensated CEO’s of multi-billion dollar corporations can drive those companies into the ground and ruin them, then simply “resign” with an even more obscene golden parachute…

          • Hydro Engineer

            First,The Union is not in charge of anyone. All members of the department Captain and below are Union members.

            Second, The Lieutenant is in charge of members at the lowest level. The Lieutenant must take responsibility for her crew. The rookie did wrong due to his Lieutenants lack of training and the Training academy’s training.These new cadets are leaving the Training academy with no knowledge of what to expect on the streets. He should not be fired, but disciplined and trained properly. If he fails his monthly test the he should be fired.

            Third, “lrb” is responsible for the Lieutenant’s actions. He assigns all the officers and determines where to send these cadets. You have a Lt. that is not much of a Firefighter and sends a new recruit/cadet to them to learn the job, this is what you get.

            Fourth, “lrb” has repeatedly tarnished the reputation of this great department. The Chief of the department sends in his budget report and forgets to add for new Apparatus???? The Chief is fully funded to hire employees yet he has stalled in putting together a entrance exam to hire???? Apparatus is not being repaired in a timely fashion because we only have 7 Mechanics available to work 24/7???? He has just started to hire new Paramedic’s but only single-role????

            “lrb” needs to go!!!!!! he has done enough damage here!!!

          • A real officer

            you are pointing out the deficiencies of the LT. and the probie. OK, what about the other members as well who were there and did nothing. I’m talking about anyone who had knowledge about the emergency and did nothing. So youre excusing the firefighter from 10 and the rest of the privates?.
            How pathetic, for any member of this department to stand by and not assist a dying citizen across the F’n street from the firehouse. And Hydro what is or who is a firefighter?. Is that person someone who complains of going on medical calls? whay about helping someone off the floor?, or better yet, what about having a bad attitude for doing a school display?. I can guarantee you the members you call good firemen all display a disdain for what I just said.
            You call someone a hell of a firemen because he talks about going on boxes all day, Yes it’s true, I listen to others talk about how great someone is, and it’s the same people who get tick off for their own perception of who needs or warrants help. By the way, the firefighter of today does more than just ride on a rig going to fires. I’d rather be around someone who said they were here for the paycheck and display a positive attitude, versus someone who you claim to be a firefighter who can’t stand part of their job.
            Everyone like I said who knew about the medical and did nothing should be punished upto termination. It was gross misconduct at the least. Unlike most of you, I’m not trying to make excuses for no one friend or foe. They dropped the ball and have got to own up to it. Someone died as a direct result of the negative culture that exist towards EMS, and that my friend has nothing to do with upper management.

  • Homie D Clown

    Judge, Jury, Jackpot! Paging Johnny Cochran…

    • Ukfbbuff

      You do realize that someone lost their life?

      I’m sure any financial claim that is made, is only to make the city be more vigilant in who they hire/promote to carry out the DCFD “Mission Statement”

      To be “Of service to the community”

      Rather Mr. Mills had been given ACLS Care in the beginning a law suit would probably not be forth coming


    All that’s needed now is for Vinny to announce once again…his support for Kenneth and that he’s doing great things….I and about 2100 others could not tell you what those things are, but we’ll stay the course that seems to be leaving a destructive path behind…great job you zero….

  • 19262007

    Sigh. In almost 29 years of service with DCFD I have had only 2 Fire Chiefs who actually showed ANY support for the troops, and that’s been 8 Chiefs. Yes, EIGHT. The city leaders truly don’t care, they just get embarrassed when they get caught, they’re no different than politicians everywhere, and embarrassment is temporary. That’s just how we roll in DC…

  • volunteer for life

    Complete failure to his ff and the public. Go play golf and let a Leader come in and lead.

  • kdawgg2

    The Problem is not the Chief, its the Union and the overpaid City Councilman’s who will not allow the chief to implement the changes that is needed in the Department and as usual when thing go wrong blame the Chief, just like one could blame the chief of police for crooked officers being arrested and increase murders or better yet one could blame this overpaid Councilmen s for all the corrupt Council Members among them who have been arrested and sent to jail. Grosso first need to look in the mirror and then at his overpaid partners and then investigate before talking loud and saying nothing.

    • DStatter

      I’m not saying there aren’t other problems in the department kdawgg2, there are. Just quit making excuses for an incompetent chief. It’s the same pattern over and over again with Ellerbe. The council offered him money to address the fleet and maintenance issues that Chief Rubin (who I’m not a fan of) identified in his transition report. Ellerbe said he didn’t need money. The Rubealso identified the paramedic shortage and background checks for the new chief. Ellerbe ignored those issues until they became news headlines and the press was on his case.
      So, it isn’t just this incident. Chief Kenneth Ellerbe proven over three years he doesn’t have what it takes. Not one of those four issues is the fault of the union or the council. They are the fault of this chief choosing to ignore problems until they become a crisis.
      And what sets me off is his complete inability to handle the fallout when these incidents occur. Yes, Ken Ellerbe can’t control the actions of a lieutenant and her crew directly, but he could show a little leadership in handling the crisis that does occur because of the neglect that occurred on Rhode Island Avenue. Just as with the four other issues I cited, Ellerbe and Quander prove they are incapable of playing in the big leagues.

      • Harvey Glick

        Dave your absolutely correct in stating that the council asked Ellerbe what he needed, as they have every Fire Chief in the past. The answer from those Chiefs was the same, we I do not need anything, I’m good… The Fire Chief works for the Mayor and the budget is set by the mayor (budget team) and department heads cannot ask the council for additional funds, not saying that’s right but thats they way it’s been. The only Chief that ever told the council, in a public forum, to increase his budget was Latin and he got spanked, privately not publicly. Looking at the budgets that ellerbe has been responsible for developing though it is clear that he didn’t ask for what was needed, money for apparatus, uniforms, training, capital projects, overtime is rampant, as it has been since the 80’s, and he gives up 51 positions?
        The other thing I absolutely agree with you on is the handling of this story. He should have been out in front of this answering the tough questions taking imediate action to reassure the residents that this was an atypical response, that the majority of the men and women on the department do make good decisions, even though at times it seems like he punishes members for independant thought, sorry had to go there, and do the right thing even when no one is looking. 167,000 responses in the city and the entire department is judge on a few bad, horrible outcomes.

    • Harvey Glick

      Please tell me what changes that Ellerbe says needs to be made? The only thing I have heard from him, the Deputy Mayor and the Mayor is that the Chief is working behind the scene to make the changes. If changes are needed to be made you do not do that behind a vale of secrecy you put those out in the open and ensure transparency. When you do something in secret the perseption is, and this usually turns out to be true, IT’S WRONG. If you truly believe the changes need to be made clearly and publicly state them, move forward with them and defend them against any critisisim or questions. This has not happened at any level which gives me the impression the changes really aren’t changes but retalliation for questioning his authority, which with his track record should be done at every turn.

  • DStatter

    Must be a brain fart. I know that. I have absolutely no explanation or excuse for why I wrote that other than I am old and getting dumber by the minute. Thanks Doing It.

  • IslaFire

    Let’s not indulge Typical DC BS. When you make a statement DC Fire “are ALL union flunkies” your credibility goes to zero.

    In the US military, when a catastrophic event happens, it is usually the big wig in charge who is relieved of their command, particularly in the Navy. If a boatswains mate steers a ship into a reef, the Captain of the ship is relieved and will probably not receive another promotion in his or her career.

    With all the problems at DC Fire, it is clearly obvious there is a huge lack of leadership and it appears to start at the top.

  • Ukfbbuff

    After two weeks, it’s amazing the Ken Ellerbe is chose to let this

    “Drip, drip,drip”, method of addressing this issue

    Im in California, and wonder when he’ll hold a press conference on this

  • 19262007

    Actually noodlepick, the city has nearly $2 BILLION in surplus, they received a windfall of $475 million in taxes last year, and just yesterday The Post had a small article in the Metro section that said city just got ANOTHER windfall from taxes to the tune of $325 million. The city is literally awash in money and the cats that run the place act like they’re as broke as Detroit. If I were to sue the city my price would be $2.8 BILLION.

  • Typical DC BS

    Sure it is union yes. Using that logic, Obama should resign because of all the incompetence associated with his regime re: Obamacare’s idiotic roll-out, Benghazi, the IRS fiasco, etc.?

  • Robert Ridgeway

    How do you make excuses for an organization’s leader who has become so inept in his job that the employees don’t even try to perform their primary function anymore, i,e. to help people ? This is one of the more disgraceful examples of an organization that has simply gone to hell that I have ever seen, and it’s going to take a major overhaul to get it back to where it should – and ued to – be. The Washington, DC Fire & EMS Department used to be one of the best fire/rescue agencies in the nation and now it has become a laughingstock except that it’s not very funny, especially if you happen to be a resident of DC. Damned shame and disgraceful.

  • Slim Shady

    Wow,”real officer”, thanks for making my case.

    This is the problem within the department, officers who have complete disdain for their F/F’s.
    From the chief to the lowly sergeant, there are so called leaders in this department who would rather hammer and place a member on charges, than back that members actions. Yes, there are times when an officer can not back his or her members actions, such as Mr. Mills case, but this is literally one out of hundreds of thousands of incidents.
    “Real officer”, the members don’t have a problem running EMS calls, the problem is the blatant abuse of the 911 system, the lack of leadership at the top and the incompetence at the office of unified communications.(OUC)

    We run thousands of EMS calls a year. Out of all those calls, maybe 50% (and I’m being conservative) are serious enough to send an ambulance. The rest are people who use us as their primary health care provider or personal taxi cab.

    As for the union,”being hostile”. This fire chief has been nothing but hostile to the members of this department from the beginning. If you ask me, they have not been hostile enough!

    Don’t question the F/F’s intent on working for this department, we are as dedicated to saving lives as you claim to be.
    If the single role employees would show up for work every once in awhile the F/F’s wouldn’t have to back fill medic units.

    • A real officer

      Slim, an officer should ONLY back you when you are right period. When your rogue, disrespectful, belligerent, and so forth, you let him fall on his sword. If officers would do there job like it suppose to be done, we wouldn’t have alot of the issues that plague this department.
      Another problem is you have officers who want to be the guys buddies, they’re scared to give orders because the guys won’t like them. Many (officers) want the rank and the priviledges and benefits, but don’t actually want the responsibility that goes with it.
      As far as the union leadership, they don’t know how to lead a union, its give and take, not only your way. That’s why we haven’t benefitted anything since the current leadership (local36) has been in power. As I stated before, there is a culture that exist within dcfd that makes for bad attitudes.
      Why do worry about who abuse the system, that’s not your fight, your job is to come to work and run as many calls, regardless of what you may deem as an emergency. You see the difference between me and you, I don’t care what they (citizen) call me for, I’m gonna respond with a smile on my face with eagerness. Youre one of the members who I’m talking about, here to serve youre self.
      It’s all about the letters dcfd on your back and nothing else. Learn to be a public servant and put something above yourself, (the needs of the public) because I do.

      • Slim Shady

        “A real officer”, If the few, incompetent, higher up chief officers of this department would do their job, sign off and endorse recommendations by their company officers, for termination of careless incompetent, lawless employees ( cadet & recruit). Instead of throwing these recommendations and reports in the trash when they receive them: than maybe, just maybe the department would be a little better off.
        I don’t wear ,”DCFD” on my back. Chief LRB made sure of that, Now why would he do that????Hmmmm! I wonder?

        I put the citizens of Washington DC above myself every time I assume duty. Just because I believe it’s egregious and NOT in the public’s best interest to send a FIRE TRUCK on a,”Alpha” tummy ache (because there are NO ambulances available) while a house on fire, with people trapped is,”mysteriously” dispatched, in that same companies 1st due area seconds later, does not mean I am any less dedicated than you. Is this what you would call properly and,” eagerly serving the public with a smile”?

        The system is broke! The only thing that is going to fix it, in my opinion is to separate the services. There are plenty of firefighters who don’t want to ride ambulances, and there are plenty of firefighters who don’t want to ride fire trucks. There is NOTHING wrong with that! Pay everyone the same, let everyone be local 36 members, get rid of Mayor Gray and chief LRB and everyone will be happy! I promise!

        • A real officer

          You have some decent points Slim, but I think that grey is doing an excellent job for the city. The problem is no one likes change. Change is good for everyone. And let me ask you this? what has the chief really done that is so terrible but enforce the rules thats already on the books. If the rank and file wasn’t so resistant to change, the transition wouldn’t be so painful.

          • Slim Shady

            “I think Gray is doing an excellent job for the city” Really? Exactly how? give me an example. Mayor Gray, along with Police Chief Linear have benefited from actual, non criminal tax payers entering the city in droves, That’s it! He nor she have done nothing to'”change” the city, Mayor Gray and Chief Linear are benefiting from all the work Mayor Anthony Williams did while he was mayor.
            Now, that man ,”Changed” the city and started the ball rolling for what is happening now.(A Republican in democrats clothing)
            “What has the chief done that is so terrible” Lets see….. He failed to purchase needed apparatus, he is attempting to bust our union, he deceives and lies to City Council on a regular basis, he is a blatant racist. He purposely demoralizes the department as a whole and is a Terrible leader, just to state a few.
            Speaking of,”Change”. Barrack Hussein Obama spoke of ,”Hope & Change”. How is that hope & change working out for ya? It’s killing me! Along with anyone else who doesn’t obey! Obama & LRB are TYRANTS!!