Instead of putting the details out for all to see last week, DC Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander is forced to answer more questions about the death of Cecil Mills, a week after issuing his report about the tragic incident. As I pointed out last Sunday, Quander’s report not only failed to explain what the probationary firefighter who was the first contact at the firehouse failed to do, the document never addressed the training of this graduate from the high school cadet program. My theory was then and is now that Quander omitted these items to avoid further scrutiny of Chief Ellerbe and the program that is the priority initiative of Ellerbe’s administration.
The problem for Quander is that an internal affairs report leaked out on Thursday highlighted the omitted items and includes the fact that the probie, Remy Jones, said he did not have the skills to handle a walk in emergency at the firehouse. Despite that, Quander told Peter Hermann and Amy Brittain of The Washington Post Friday that Jones was properly trained:
The deputy mayor, Paul A. Quander Jr., said the rookie — along with others in the station that day — should have known he could have responded. “He may have been under extreme pressure when things were happening,” Quander said.
Quander said that if the cadet, 19-year-old Remy Jones, was, indeed, ignorant about what was expected of him, it means the lieutenant in charge of the firehouse failed her duties as well. He said cadets are on probation for 18 months because they need be able to handle life-and-death emergencies “without thinking, but knowing what to do when the pressure comes.”
The Washington Post previously reported that Jones, who graduated in November with his cadet class, ran into problems at the training academy. Two supervisors documented his poor attitude and disrespect for fellow cadets and the chain of command, according to internal reports obtained by The Post.
Kenneth Ellerbe, Paul Quander and Vincent Gray continue to show their competency in crisis management is about equal to the skills the probie in the center of the Mills case showed in following procedures when someone came to the firehouse asking for help. At least the probie’s excuse may be he’s new to the job and had poor training.
The fire chief, deputy mayor and mayor have now stretched one bad incident for the DC Fire and EMS Department into more than a month of news coverage with no end in sight. Banking on Paul Quander’s report released last Friday to put an end to this never ending news cycle on the death of Cecil Mills, we find one week later TV reporter Paul Wagner going all Charlie LeDuff like on Mayor Vincent Gray about the perception of a cover-up.
This trio always seem to be under the impression that the best way to manage bad news is to let it leak out slowly in dribs and drabs to maximize news coverage. Even when they promise a complete report into what has become an incident receiving international coverage they leave important stuff out.
We pointed out on Sunday some of what was missing in the Quander report and Wagner found out yesterday (Thursday) the details of what the deputy mayor didn’t think the public should know. Even though Paul Quander tells Wagner otherwise, the missing material found in an internal affairs report is significant and speaks to the heart of the matter.
Quander can spin it any way he wants, the press secretary can continue to run interference and the mayor can run away, but until they learn and apply the basics of reputation management this one will not go quietly into the night.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray refused to answer any questions Friday about the investigation into the death of Cecil Mills and why key facts about the case were left out of a public report.
He instead steered all questions to the deputy mayor who wrote it.
As FOX 5 first reported Thursday, the public report released last week does not include an admission by a rookie firefighter that he was afraid he would lose his job if he ran to help Mills.
Mayor Gray wanted nothing to do with reporters’ questions about the internal affairs report. At a public event inside the Wilson Building, the mayor refused to discuss it and steered all questions to the deputy mayor for public safety.
In an interview Friday, Paul Quander defended the report released to the public, telling FOX 5 in an interview it was not “sugar coated.”
Quander says the fact the rookie claimed he hadn’t been trained and was afraid to leave his post for fear of losing his job is not crucial to the fact no one in that firehouse went to help Mills when he collapsed across the street.
But first, we’ll start with my attempt to get answers from the mayor.
As we first told you Thursday night, the rookie firefighter, Remy Jones, told internal affairs investigators he didn’t know what to do when people came knocking at the firehouse door looking for help.
He also said he thought he could only ring the emergency bells at night, that he wanted to run to help Mills, but was afraid of leaving his truck a man short.
The internal affairs report also says the lieutenant in charge that day lied in her initial statement, and that 911 dispatchers were told Truck 15, in that same firehouse, was available to go on the call, but was never dispatched.
About the rookie, Quander said, “He is an employee and he has a duty station and you don’t leave your duty station. So he called for help and when help finally came and when he said can we go over and assist, he was told essentially we have to let the lieutenant know and that’s what they did.”
The deputy mayor also defended the rookies training.
“He received training,” said Quander. “He graduated from the academy, the same training as everyone else, and he responded in a way that may not have been perfect because he was supposed to have rung the bell. This was nothing that was sugar coated. I was thorough. I was meticulous.”
Quander says he did not include the fact the lieutenant lied in her initial statement because it was after the fact and not important enough to be included in the public report.
As to why Truck 15 wasn’t dispatched when it was right across the street, the deputy mayor says the dispatchers were looking for paramedic units to go to the scene to help Mills and the personnel assigned to the truck were only EMTs.