- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he plans to use an objective, deliberate standard in evaluating the performance of Fire Chief Ronnie Few and his three top aides, whose resumes are being investigated for falsification.
"I think the resume issue is a serious issue. No question it's a serious issue," Mr. Williams said during WTOP Radio's "Ask the Mayor" call-in show. "It has to be looked at in light of all the other performance issues, in a deliberate, decisive way."
Questions about Chief Few's future and performance dominated the hourlong program, sparked by a report yesterday in The Washington Times that said the fire department is not meeting some of its key performance goals and has lowered its standards for some goals.
According to monthly "Front Burner" reports prepared for the mayor and obtained by The Times under the District's Freedom of Information Act, emergency response times have fallen, 20 percent of the fire department's fleet of vehicles is obsolete, and not enough buildings are being inspected for fire-code violations.
During the program, Mr. Williams said he would have to read The Times' report, adding that he had thought the department was meeting its performance goals. Data from the Front Burner reports are incorporated into the mayor's "scorecard" goals posted on the city's Web site (www.washingtondc.gov.).
Mr. Williams said Chief Few had made progress in modernizing the department but that there has been a "campaign against him that's a fact." The mayor said the resume issue had undermined the chief's achievements.
The Times first reported March 13 that the resumes of Chief Few's three top appointees Assistant Chief Gary L. Garland, Assistant Chief Marcus R. Anderson and Deputy Chief Bruce A. Cowan contain false professional and educational credentials.
City Administrator John Koskinen has investigated the matter, and the mayor yesterday said a report on the investigations' findings would be released "shortly," but he refused to speculate about its conclusions.
City government sources told The Times the investigation confirms that the resumes contain fabrications, including Chief Garland's assertion that he holds an associate's degree and Chief Cowan's assertion that he retired from his job at the East Point, Ga., Fire Department. He actually was fired for insubordination.
A separate investigation of Chief Few began after The Washington Post reported two weeks ago that his resume said he had graduated from Morris Brown College in Atlanta and received an award from an international firefighting association that the group does not offer.
The three aides, along with Chief Few, had been scheduled to meet with the mayor yesterday, but city sources said that meeting will occur today.
Chief Few told WUSA-TV yesterday that he's "doing fine" and has "full confidence" in his people. He said the mayor is his boss and that if the mayor doesn't feel good about him, then it's his job "to make him feel comfortable."
Chief Few did not receive a merit bonus this year because his department did not meet performance standards set by the mayor's office.
But Mr. Williams yesterday said that doesn't indicate that Chief few's tenure has been a failure. "You don't miss your bonus because you failed. You miss your bonus because you haven't excelled," he said.
The fire department's monthly reports show the percentage of advanced-life support assistance arriving within eight minutes from the time a 911 call is received fell from 50.2 percent in fiscal year 2001 to 41.6 percent from October through December, the first quarter of fiscal year 2002. The reports also show that 20 percent of the department's fleet is obsolete, according to standards set by the National Fire Protection Agency, and that the office of the fire marshal is on pace to miss by 45 percent a city goal of conducting 14,363 fire inspections.
The mayor last week said Chief Few's performance will be evaluated monthly.
"One of the things I'm proud of in this city is that we have created an objective, durable evaluation system for our agency managers and their subordinates," Mr. Williams said yesterday, adding that he reviews 911 response times "assiduously."
"The last time I checked, the EMS response was what it should be," he said. "If something needs to be done it will be done."
But the monthly reports show that standards were lowered in January after emergency response times for advanced life-support calls reached their lowest numbers since Chief Few took charge of the department in July 2000.
The department formerly measured response times from the moment a call was received at the 911 center ("call-to-scene") but now measures from when a dispatcher alerts an emergency crew ("dispatch-to-scene"). Chief Few told the D.C. Council in October that he would hold the department to the more rigorous "call-to-scene" benchmark.
Margaret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said yesterday the standard was lowered to bring the District in line with neighboring jurisdictions and that it "happened to come in relation to a bad month."
Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, yesterday said he was glad to see the issue was reaching beyond just resumes. "You can't just turn your back on the resume issue," he said. "If you're going to judge these people, let's find substantive issues and judge them on that."
Jim Keary contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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