- Beretta leaves Maryland over gun laws, heads for Tennessee
- Neal Boortz defends Hillary Clinton for representing child rapist
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- Top federal judge uses pizza to explain complex Obamacare situation
- Obama, Biden overhaul job training programs
- Drought-plagued Californians turn to paint to keep lawns green
- ISIL now forcing Iraqi shopkeepers to veil mannequins in Mosul
- 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die
- Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia
- Turkish P.M. Erdogan won’t speak to Obama, but he’ll take calls from Biden
D.C. battalion chief to be demoted over beer incident
Question of the Day
The District’s fire chief promised stiff consequences against firefighters after finding beer in a refrigerator at a U Street Northwest fire station.
But the punishment for the two firefighters involved in the September incident apparently was not strong enough. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is now seeking to demote the battalion chief who reprimanded, rather than suspended, the men.
“Your failure to hold the members accountable for their receipt of the beer in violation of the Rules of Conduct brings into question your ability to exercise proper judgment in the performance of your assigned duties,” Chief Ellerbe wrote in a notice to Battalion Chief Richard Sterne, advising him that he would be demoted to the rank of captain.
Chief Sterne, who received the notice Feb. 9, said demotions from that rank are “unheard of” and is fighting the action.
“Our contention is there was no cause to take this action against him,” said Chief Sterne’s attorney, James Pressler. “He exercised really sound judgment. Apparently, for whatever reason, the fire chief thought there should be some more discipline.”
Chief Ellerbe declined to comment, saying it was a personnel matter.
The demotion order stems from a D.C. resident’s delivery of two 12-packs of beer to Engine Co. 9 to thank firefighters who extinguished a fire at his home. Firefighters declined to accept the beer, but the man left it at the fire station.
Two firefighters said they put the beer into a refrigerator to get it out of public view and planned to remove it from the firehouse when their shift ended the next day. In the meantime, Chief Ellerbe stopped by the station, saw the beer and closed the station for two hours so all employees there could be tested for alcohol consumption. None of the employees at the station was found to have been drinking.
Punishment of 24-hour suspensions was proposed, but disciplinary action was left to Chief Sterne.
Chief Sterne, who has made numerous disciplinary decisions during his 31 years with the department, determined that the men violated rules by permitting alcohol in the firehouse, but did not violate a rule about accepting gifts. He issued official reprimand letters and said there was “no intentional misconduct.”
“My job is to get all the facts and consider all that,” Chief Sterne said. “That’s what I did.”
In his letter, Chief Ellerbe noted that Chief Sterne had the authority to reduce the punishment, but said he did not take into consideration a prior offense by one of the men, and therefore created an appearance of “preferential treatment.”
“I have concluded that your actions are a detriment to effective workplace operations and have resulted in a loss of my confidence in you and belief that you cannot be relied upon in your current position,” Chief Ellerbe wrote.
The prior offense was wholly unrelated to the beer incident, so Chief Sterne “didn’t think it was fair to hold it against him,” Mr. Pressler said.
Based on the fire department’s disciplinary procedures, the harshest punishment Chief Sterne could have handed down was a 72-hour suspension, he said. Harsher penalties would have had to be issued through a trial board or other means. By referring the incident to a battalion chief to handle, Chief Sterne said, it was obvious that fire officials didn’t regard the beer incident as a major offense.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ACLU slams Gray on issues of transparency
- D.C. police quietly prepping for change in law on marijuana
- Council overrides mayor's veto of fiscal 2015 budget
- 3 killed, 4 wounded Sunday in three D.C. shootings
- D.C. Council to vote on Gray's budget veto
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Retailer pays a price for getting too close to Obama
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- David Perdue defeats Jack Kingston in Georgia Republican Senate primary runoff
- 'Straight White Guy Festival' supposedly set for Ohio park
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- Pentagon team dispatched to Ukraine amid crisis with Russia
- MAY: Barbarians at Jordan's gate
- Hamas terrorists wear Israeli army uniforms to ambush soldiers in Gaza
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- McCLAUGHRY: Finish off the "Islamic State" quickly and cheaply
- BERMAN & MADYOON: An Iranian-Turkish reset
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq