- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

In June 2000, when Mayor Anthony Williams first announced that he was appointing Ronnie Few to lead the city's fire and ambulance services, the chief was on the hot seat in Augusta, Ga. A specially empaneled grand jury was pursuing allegations of favoritism, improper union organizing and his agency's spending, among other things. That same month, editors of this page warned that the D.C. Council and Chief Few had plenty of time to get their ducks in a row before confirmation hearings later in the fall. Clearly, Chief Few neglected to take heed.

Last week, following continued stinging allegations that Chief Few lied on his resume, this page encouraged him to do the right thing and step down. Yesterday, reporter Jim Keary of The Washington Times informed readers that Chief Few is indeed "looking to get out." The chief, one D.C. official said, "is ready to go back to Georgia" and might announce his departure "sooner rather than later" perhaps as early as this week. It is hoped, though, that he clears up some unfinished business before his official departure.

Part of the reason Chief Few was on the hot seat in the first place was that three of his handpicked assistants Deputy Chief Bruce Cowan, and Assistant Chiefs Marcus Anderson and Gary Garland, all former co-workers of Chief Few's were not who they said they were. Like the chief, their resumes said they had accomplished things they hadn't. Chief Few's resume went so far as to claim an award that doesn't even exist. Even sadder, when Chief Few was confronted, he had the audacity to claim that these obvious fudgings were "errors" made by the aide who typed his resume. The original allegations were first reported in March by Mr. Keary and left the mayor at a loss for words at an editorial board with editors and reporters of this newspaper. A month later, Mayor Williams said during a second editorial board meeting that Chief Few's performance would be evaluated "month to month." Talk about a vote of no-confidence.

However, Chief Few's departure solves but one problem. First and foremost, the mayor and the council must ensure that all current and future appointees withstand scrutiny on paper and through background checks. Second, the council must take a tougher line of questioning during the confirmation process. Third, as a matter of goodwill, Chief Few should ask his assistants to step down and, if interested, reapply for their jobs and see where that gets them.

To be sure, Chief Few is young enough and skilled enough to earn gainful employment elsewhere. As the city's third fire chief in less than three years, Chief Few did an admirable job of raising morale, strengthening specialty units, including hazmat, and building ties with regional agencies during and since September 11. The next time, though, he'd better write his own resume and vitae instead of leaving those all-important chores to someone who didn't think enough of the boss to let the facts speak for themselves.

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