- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

D.C. Deputy Fire Chief Bruce A. Cowan lied on his D.C. job application that he retired from his previous job as fire marshal in East Point, Ga., when he actually was fired for insubordination, according to personnel documents obtained by The Washington Times.
In a D.C. job application signed by Chief Cowan and dated July 14, 2001, he listed "retirement" as his reason for leaving his previous job. But documents from Chief Cowan's personnel record in East Point show that he was "discharged for insubordination" on Sept. 13, 1999.
This is the latest discrepancy to emerge from the resume and employment application of Chief Cowan and those of Assistant Chiefs Gary L. Garland and Marcus Anderson, which The Times first reported on March 13. The resumes, which list professional and education experience the men do not possess, are being investigated by City Administrator John Koskinen.
Chief Cowan was not eligible to retire and collect his pension until he had turned 50 on Aug. 15, 2001 one month after he had said in his D.C. job application that he already had retired.
East Point records show that he retired Sept. 1, 2001. As vested members of East Point's retirement plan, city workers are required to file retirement papers even if they have been fired or have quit to collect their pensions.
Chief Cowan last month told The Times that he had been fired from the East Point Fire Department but said he was reinstated as part of a legal settlement. He said the settlement's terms and all references to his being fired were removed from his personnel files in East Point, adding that the settlement was confidential and that he could not provide a copy of the agreement.
But East Point personnel documents show that Chief Cowan originally was fired Feb. 4, 1999, for insubordination and for displaying an antagonistic attitude toward his superiors. Chief Cowan appealed his termination and remained on the city's payroll on administrative leave until his termination was upheld Sept. 13, 1999. The Times obtained copies of the personnel documents under Georgia's open-records law.
In addition, former East Point Fire Chief David Hawkins and East Point City Attorney David Couch confirmed that Chief Cowan was fired for insubordination and was not reinstated.Chief Cowan said he could not retire after being fired. But Mr. Couch said Chief Cowan had worked for the fire department for more than 20 years, was vested in the retirement plan and could begin collecting benefits when he reached 50.
In his probe of the resumes of Chiefs Cowan, Garland and Anderson, Mr. Koskinen is investigating whether Fire Chief Ronnie Few misled Arlington County officials about the ranks of Chiefs Garland and Anderson when they helped judge promotion exams in 1996, when Chief Few headed the East Point Fire Department.
Arlington County officials required that only personnel who had achieved the rank of captain or above serve as judges in the promotion exam. Chief Garland was a sergeant but identified himself as a chief, and Chief Anderson was a private but identified himself as a captain. Chief Few certified their ranks, according to Arlington County officials. The Times first reported the matter Tuesday.
Mr. Koskinen is expected to complete his investigation next week, but it could not be determined when he would release its findings.
Arlington County spokesman Richard Bridges said the county fire department does not plan to investigate Chief Few's sending unqualified personnel from East Point to assist in the 1996 promotion exams.
George Burke, spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, said this is the first time he has heard of a fire department sending personnel with improper credentials to assist another department in its promotion exams.
"If Arlington County asked for captains, they should have gotten captains. It was disingenuous to send anyone of any other rank," he said. "These are critical tests."
Mike Staples, president of the Arlington County Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, said any of the 120 candidates who participated in the 1996 exam could dispute the results because the county used unqualified judges.
On Wednesday, Chief Few issued a "word of encouragement" memo to all fire and emergency medical services employees about the "character attacks upon this department."
"In light of the recent newspaper articles regarding my senior staff and other unfavorable articles, I ask you stay encouraged and motivated. I recognize that many of you are concerned about the survival of my senior staff," Chief Few said in the memo. "I want to assure you that the accusations that are made are strictly untrue. Please don't let the false information of these articles infiltrate your minds and spirits."
Chief Few has said he did not check Chief Cowan's employment status because he was already aware of it. Chief Few said he knew Chief Cowan had been fired but said he was reinstated after suing East Point to get his job back.
D.C. fire department spokeswoman Lisa Bass said in a March 11 letter that she could not provide details of Chief Cowan's employment status.
"Due to the sealed nature of this legal case and sensitive nature that surrounds the findings, we can only reveal that Bruce Cowan's pension pay from the city of East Point records his status as 'early retirement,' not terminated," Miss Bass said in the letter.
Miss Bass has referred all questions to Mr. Koskinen, who was not available for comment.

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