District of Columbia & Sarasota County signed formal agreement to allow new fire chief to remain DC employee. Arrangement can provide Kenneth Ellerbe with enhanced retirement benefits.

Chief Kenneth Ellerbe from Sarasota County website.
Chief Kenneth Ellerbe from Sarasota County website.

See DC Standard Form 69 – Personnel Exchange Agreement

DC personnel regulations covering temporary assignments

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A spokesman for the District of Columbia Department of Human Resources confirms there is a signed agreement between the city and Sarasota County about the employment of the Florida community’s new fire chief. Andrew Gerst tells that a form titled “Personnel Exchange Agreement” is on file in connection with DC Deputy Chief Kenneth Ellerbe who has been Sarasota County’s fire chief since August.

DC Fire & EMS Department spokesman Pete Piringer previously confirmed that Ellerbe, employed by the department since 1982, is on leave without pay. The arrangement could allow Ellerbe to remain employed through his 50th birthday in April, in turn enhancing his retirement benefits.

On Tuesday, DC City Council Public Safety and Judiciary Chairman Phil Mendelson said the arrangement “smacks of favoritism” and sends the wrong message to the rank and file who are not allowed these special perks.

While Gerst would not provide details on who signed the form for the DC government, numerous sources familiar with the document tell that it has the signatures of Assistant Fire Chief Brian Lee and Director of Human Resources Brender Gregory.

Chief Ellerbe’s boss in Sarasota County, Emergency Services Director Mike Suarez, confirms he signed a  District of Columbia government document at the time of Chief Ellerbe’s employment. In a telephone conversation, Suarez could not recall exactly what document he signed but said it sounds very similar to the description of the “Personnel Exchange Agreement”.

A copy of a blank “Personnel Exchange Agreement” provided to indicates it would allow Ellerbe to return to his post as deputy fire chief in DC, or “a position of like seniority, status and pay” at “the completion of the assignment”.

When reached by telephone Chief Ellerbe declined to comment on the issue.

DC Fire & EMS Department sources indicate when the arrangement was first presented to Chief Dennis Rubin he refused to sign off on the deal. In June, when the department was questioned by about a possible deal to help Chief Ellerbe with his retirement, the word from a spokesman was that Chief Rubin said there would absolutely no special arrangements.

The fire department sources, who are not authorized to speak on this matter, indicate that Chief Rubin said he only recently became aware that Assistant Chief Lee signed the paperwork.

The Washington Times reported on Monday that by being allowed to receive his retirement pay at age 50 Chief Ellerbe could take home as much as an additional $600,000. Chief Ellerbe is in the middle tier of a three tiered retirement system that requires him to be employed by the department at the time of his retirement to begin receiving benefits before age 55.

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