- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

EAST POINT, Ga. Firefighters in this Atlanta suburb say three top appointees of D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few were not considered chiefs by the rank-and-file when they served here in the mid- to late-1990s.
The academic and professional credentials of three high-ranking D.C. fire officials have come under scrutiny since The Washington Times reported March 13 that the men Assistant Chief Gary L. Garland, Assistant Chief Marcus R. Anderson and Deputy Chief Bruce A. Cowan misrepresented their qualifications on their resumes.
All three were recruited out of the small East Point, Ga., Fire Department by Chief Few to join their former boss in the District, and all three asserted on their resumes that they held the rank of fire chief in East Point. But none ever rose higher than lieutenant, according to East Point personnel records and the city's attorney.
Chief Few has dismissed the charges, saying all were considered full-fledged fire chiefs in Georgia.
But most firefighters contacted by The Times in East Point say that's not how they remember it.
More than a dozen East Point firefighters told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity that they commonly addressed the men as "chiefs," but that it was general knowledge that the positions were administrative and did not signify that the men had achieved a chief officer's rank.
"I still don't consider them chiefs," said one firefighter with more than two decades of service in East Point. "They needed to get us money, personnel and equipment. That was their job."
He said that if any of the three showed up at a fire, they were outranked by the battalion chief in command.
The three worked for Chief Few from 1995 to 1997, when Chief Few left East Point to lead the Augusta-Richmond County, Ga., Fire Department.
Some firefighters who spoke with The Times said opinions in the department on Chief Few and his staff were largely divided along racial lines, with white firefighters more critical of their former boss.
Chiefs Few, Garland and Anderson are black. Chief Cowan is white.
One firefighter, who is white, said he worked with Chief Garland and Chief Anderson and that they were competent firefighters and good officers, but that their positions were administrative.
"If you want to fill your office, fill your office, but don't put them on the line and tell me they are chiefs," he said. Most firefighters, he said, saw the appointments of the three men to East Point administrative positions as a move by Chief Few to take "care of his buddies."
But a black firefighter who trained under Chief Garland said he had earned his respect.
"If he walked in, he was 'Chief Garland,'" the firefighter said.
He said it didn't surprise him that the three men should be selected by Chief Few to jump from East Point's fire department, which has about 110 workers, to the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, which has about 1,920 employees. He said the decision was similar to that of a corporate executive or sports coach keeping his staff intact.
Another black firefighter who trained under Chief Garland said he never knew that Chief Garland wasn't a chief by rank until he read the stories in The Times. He said he had wondered why Chief Garland was adamant about being addressed as "chief."
According to documents obtained from the East Point City Attorney's Office under Georgia's open-records law, Chief Cowan was assigned as "fire marshal" in 1993 and promoted to lieutenant in 1998. Chief Garland was assigned as "training officer" in 1993 and promoted to lieutenant in 1998. Chief Anderson was assigned as "EMS coordinator" and promoted to sergeant in 1998.
To become a chief, a firefighter must first attain the rank of captain, then pass a test to become a battalion chief.
City Attorney David Couch said he could understand how the three might have thought they were chiefs, because Chief Few told them they were the equivalent of fire chiefs, but Mr. Couch stressed that they did not hold command positions.
Mr. Couch said he received a phone call from Chief Few after the stories appeared in The Times asking why he had said the men were unqualified. He insisted he hadn't said they were unqualified, but sent a letter to D.C. city officials clarifying his position with regard to the men's ranks in East Point.
Chief Few and Mayor Anthony A. Williams questioned the accuracy of the Times' report, but the East Point city attorney said yesterday that "there was nothing in the article that was wrong."
After D.C. Council members asked for an explanation, Mr. Williams said D.C. City Administrator John Koskinen would conduct an investigation. But officials in the East Point city manager's office, the city attorney's office and the fire department said yesterday they have not yet been contacted by anyone from the D.C. government.


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