Medics’ lawsuit dropped for now

Two D.C. firefighters disciplined last month in connection with the response to the emergency call for journalist David E. Rosenbaum dropped their lawsuit against the city yesterday after reaching an agreement to pursue arbitration in the case.

Frelimo Simba, the lead firefighter who responded to the January 2006 call, and Michael Roy, another firefighter involved in the response, agreed to drop their suit. The suit charged that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty illegally overrode disciplinary recommendations from an administrative trial board.

The agreement, announced during a hearing on the issue in D.C. Superior Court yesterday, lifts the penalties imposed by the mayor while the two men’s grievances are heard by an arbitrator.

Mr. Fenty, acting on the recommendations of Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, last month fired Mr. Simba and increased Mr. Roy’s suspension from 84 duty-hours to 192 duty-hours. Mr. Roy also was barred from public contact for the rest of his career.

The family of Mr. Rosenbaum yesterday said they weren’t sure what to make of the agreement but expressed frustration that more time will pass without any culpability.

“It’s been 17 months — a very long time — and so far, very few people have been held accountable,” Mr. Rosenbaum’s brother Marcus said after yesterday’s hearing.

Both attorneys for the city and the D.C. Firefighters Association, which filed the suit against the city on behalf of the men, refused comment after yesterday’s hearing.

Mr. Rosenbaum, 63, was walking in his Northwest neighborhood on Jan. 6, 2006, when he was beaten and robbed by two men. He died two days later.

The fire department was scrutinized after the incident, with the focus on whether a neglectful response contributed to Mr. Rosenbaum’s death.

An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General found that first responders thought Mr. Rosenbaum was drunk or having a seizure. It also found that an ambulance took 23 minutes to get to the scene.

The trial board found three other firefighters involved in the response not guilty.

Chief Rubin, who was appointed in March and received the board’s decision last month, refused to back the findings, calling the recommendations too lenient. The firefighters’ union objected, saying Mr. Fenty and Chief Rubin had overstepped their bounds.

According to the association’s collective-bargaining agreement, the trial board handles all cases in which an employee may be fired, demoted or suspended for more than 20 hours.

The board, which consists of two captains and two battalion fire chiefs, decides guilt or innocence, as well as the penalty. The fire chief can accept only the trial board’s recommended penalty, reduce it or dismiss the case.

The trial board is appointed by the fire chief but was in place before Chief Rubin’s arrival.

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