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Mayoral Candidate and Council Member Tommy Wells Calls for Resignation of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Chief of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department

by Prince Of Petworth February 25, 2014 at 4:37 pm 15 Comments

From a press release:

“Today, DC Councilmember Tommy Wells, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, issued a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray calling for the resignation of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Chief of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Councilmember Wells released the following statement in regards to the letter:

Yesterday I chaired an oversight hearing to give the Gray administration a chance to explain what happened in the Cecil Mills case—in which five firefighters failed to respond to a personal plea for help at the firehouse door. Specifically, I wanted to hear the Mayor’s plan to fix the situation so it will never happen again. The administration’s response was deficient and disappointing. Our city deserves better.

In fact, there is no plan—or even apparent capacity—to rectify the failings of the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department and restore public confidence in reliable emergency response. Therefore I am calling on Mayor Gray to immediately ask for the resignations of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and the Chief of the DC Fire/EMS Department.

I was stunned to learn that the Mayor’s representatives had no plan to respond to the Mills case beyond disciplining the firefighters who failed to assist Mr. Mills, who suffered a heart attack across the street from their firehouse. The only additional corrective action was to issue a memorandum reminding firefighters to “follow the rules.”

But my response is not based on a single incident. There is systemic mismanagement throughout the department that was evident even before I became chair of the council committee with oversight of public safety one year ago. The department has a consistent record of failure. The shortcomings evident in the most visible and horrifying incidents—in which citizens like Mr. Mills have lost their lives—are just the tip of the iceberg.

From burning ambulances, uncertified fire trucks, and no procurement plan to adequately equip our fire and emergency personnel, to a shortage of paramedics, delayed response to emergencies, and poor training and management, this department has enormous and urgent challenges to overcome. Yet the administration has no coherent plan to improve the department’s performance.

Blaming racial divisions, union membership, or other perceived motivations for the department’s dysfunction must end. It is a disgrace to place responsibility on the rank and file employees who put their lives on the line for DC citizens every day. Whatever the divisions in the department, only strong leadership, sound management, and a new culture of excellence can resolve them.

A copy of the letter that Councilmember Wells sent to Mayor Gray is attached.

2014_02_25_Letter to Mayor (PDF)

  • Fire them

    I second that motion

    • Anon3


      • former EMT

        There should be civil and/or criminal charges against all of the firefighters involved. I used to be a volunteer EMT. This kind of behavior would not be tolerated at my volunteer firehouse. It’s a shame it even occurs at a career house.

  • Anonymous

    According to DCist, the Mayor’s office has already issued a response, but it seems to involve name-calling and this claim regarding Wells: “We’re talking about the same Councilmember who actively blocked the chief’s scheduled reforms, so at best he’s a hypocrite.” Exactly how did Wells block any “scheduled reforms?” The response wasn’t clear.

  • Miss Lu Lu Hog

    This is a political stunt by Tommy Wells because he’s running for mayor. However, I don’t have no faith in D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and he should have been terminated a long time ago. I remember Ward 4 D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser asked for Kenneth Ellerbe’s resignation. Boswer didn’t request the resignations of former D.C. Councilmembers Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas, and Michael Brown. All these former D.C. Councilmembers were convicted of felonies. What a mess this city is in!

    • saf

      The fact is, Paul Quander remains in his job only because his last name is Quander.

      It’s time to hold him accountable.

      • soozles

        +1. The only reason Ellerbe is still there is because of Paul Quander. We can’t clean the firehouse until we get rid of Quander.

        • Anonymous

          What a quandary!

      • Miss Lu Lu Hog

        I agree, Paul Quander needs to be terminated also. There’s no use for a Deputy Mayor for Public Safety because we have a Police Chief. Most D.C. residents doesn’t know there’s a Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. Oh what a web we weave. LOL

  • Bil Riggs

    Councilman Wells is absolutely right — they both should resign — And as one who has been undecided in the upcoming mayor’s race, I am now firmly in the Wells’ camp

  • DC_Chica

    Everything I’ve read about Ellerbe makes his management of the Fire Dept sound like a disaster. Yet another reason why I won’t vote for Gray.

  • MtP

    These are the types of things people should judge the Mayor on – can he run the city effectively. Look past the press conferences and ribbon cuttings and look at how the city actually functions. Between the Taxi Commission and the Fire Department, that alone makes me not want him running our city. And I agree, the response to the incident was pathetic. No desire to make larger changes or address anything outside of individual discipline. I admit that I have thought I would vote for Wells for a couple months now, but this solidifies it for me. Yes, this is a bit of a political stunt (what isn’t?!), but I wholeheartedly agree with the message of it and I appreciate that he is willing to push hard for something to actually change.

    • Still On The Fence

      Was Wells coming out swinging like this before he ran for mayor? I hate it when people run for a higher office and start jumping from catashtrophe to catastrophe, Monday Morning quarterbacking. What exactly would Wells do? What does a “culture of excellence” mean, pragmatically? Firefighter evaluations like we have teacher evaluations? I can’t say I’m for or against something Wells suggests until he presents an actual, tangible policy. And, no, saying “let’s fire ____” isn’t a policy. Sure, Ellerbe should get canned, for all the reasons enumerated above, but what changes would Mayor Wells institute? He doesn’t really say.

  • Guy Jones

    Mayor Grey didn’t demand accountability when the Examiner revealed — more than one year ago — that fully one-half of D.C.’s ambulance fleet is non-operational. Fire Chief Ellerbe, when pressed by the Council to explain the fiasco, offered the usual deflections of responsibility and evasions. Grey should have fired his @ss immediately after this incident. He didn’t, which tells us much about Grey’s tolerance of incompetence and his lax attitudes towards providing essential city services.

    Basic rule — pray that you don’t suffer an injury on the streets of the District, because, if you do, ambulance assistance will not come in a timely manner, if it comes at all.


  • Joey

    Gosh, is there a petition we could sign?


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