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Council candidate calls on mayor to replace D.C. fire chief

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

D.C. Council candidate Patrick Mara is calling on Mayor Vincent C. Gray to replace the city's fire chief, saying Kenneth Ellerbe is "not the best person for the job."

Mr. Mara, a Republican seeking to fill a vacant council seat in an April 23 citywide special election, made the comments Tuesday, a day after the firefighters' union overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the chief.

"D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe arrived to the job under a dark cloud. His tenure has been unremarkable and checkered by controversy. It is time for Mayor Gray to find a replacement," Mr. Mara said in a statement.

Mr. Mara, a member of the city's State Board of Education from Ward 1, faces Democrats Matthew Frumin, Elissa Silverman, Anita Bonds, Michael A. Brown and Paul Zukerberg as well as Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd in a race for the seat vacated by Phil Mendelson when he was elected D.C. Council chairman last year. The D.C. Fire Fighters Association has not made an endorsement and is weighing its options, union President Edward Smith said.

Mr. Mara's comments politicize a series of recent incidents that have raised questions about the leadership at the 2,100-member department that has an annual budget approaching $200 million.

An inspector general's report issued last week criticizes the readiness of the department's reserve fleet of trucks and ambulances that are pressed into service when other equipment breaks down or a mass response is required. The report was made public after Chief Ellerbe gave inaccurate information to the D.C. Council about the state of the reserve equipment, referring to some units as available that had been scrapped or sold. The chief said the inaccuracies were not deliberate.

The chief has also faced criticism for a March 5 incident during which no D.C. ambulance was available to transport an injured police officer to a hospital.

Paul A. Quander Jr., the city's deputy mayor for public safety and justice, on Monday issued a statement saying he continues to support Chief Ellerbe, who said after the no-confidence vote that he remains committed to fixing problems within the department.

But Mr. Mara said that because of the incidents he had "lost confidence in Chief Ellerbe."

"I am worried about the real possibility of someone dying unnecessarily, be it an accident victim, a wounded police officer or a firefighter," he said.

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