- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A D.C. Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order stopping Mayor Adrian M. Fenty from dismissing a firefighter in connection with the botched emergency response for journalist David E. Rosenbaum.

The 10-day order, issued Monday by Judge Robert S. Tignor, states there was “substantial likelihood” the lead firefighter in the response will succeed in a court challenge against the firing.

Judge Tignor set a hearing date for May 18.

Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, last week dismissed the 15-year veteran firefighter on the advice of Chief Dennis L. Rubin after an administrative trial board recommended a 252-hour suspension. Mr. Fenty also increased the suspension of another firefighter who responded to the call and ordered that the firefighter spend the rest of his career in a position that has no contact with the public.

In his decision to overrule the trial board’s findings, the mayor cited “specific instances of misconduct and inappropriate work that required the highest level of accountability.”

But according to the union’s collective-bargaining agreement with the fire department, the fire chief can accept only the trial board’s recommended penalty, reduce it or dismiss the case.

The judge wrote in his decision it “appears that the city’s action is in clear contravention of its own regulations.”

“We’re pleased that the courts have stepped in to stop this illegal action by the fire chief and the mayor,” said Lt. Dan Dugan, president of the D.C. Firefighters Association, which filed the court challenge.

Mr. Fenty’s general counsel, Peter J. Nickles, yesterday said he still supported the personnel actions. Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said officials expected the challenge and that Chief Rubin stands by his decision.

“While he stands by his decision, he will abide by whatever a court of law determines,” Mr. Etter said.

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

The fire department was heavily scrutinized in the aftermath, with the focus on whether a neglectful, botched emergency response contributed to Mr. Rosenbaum’s death.

An investigation into the incident found the first responders thought Mr. Rosenbaum was drunk. It also found an ambulance took 23 minutes to get to the scene, in part because it was dispatched from a hospital six miles away.

Lt. Dugan said that the trial board, which took testimony from a representative of the inspector general’s office, witnesses on the scene the night of the response and medical professionals contradicted the findings of the inspector general on several of the basic facts of the case.

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 upon guilt or innocence, as well as the penalty.

The trial board found three other firefighters not guilty in the response. The mayor and fire chief accepted those recommendations.

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