- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday announced that he had accepted the resignation of Fire Chief Ronnie Few effective July 31.
"Chief Few has, through tough circumstances, moved the department forward, and I want to commend him for that," Mr. Williams said at the mayor's weekly news conference.
Mr. Williams said he and Chief Few discussed the chief's problems at a "detailed meeting" May 20. Chief Few's resignation letter and a response letter from the mayor accepting the resignation both were dated May 21.
In a news release, Chief Few defended his 22-month tenure as the city's top firefighter, saying he had been a "dedicated, passionate, and effective District official."
"[The department] has benefited enormously from my expertise in all areas," Chief Few said. "I have provided strategic, operational and communication leadership for a department that was long overdue for improvements."
The chief's departure comes after two months of questions about both his qualifications and those of the handpicked team of assistant fire chiefs who followed their boss to the District from Georgia, where Chief Few headed two smaller departments.
The Washington Times first reported on March 13 that the chief's top three assistants had inflated professional and academic credentials on their resumes. Two of those assistants have since resigned. The Washington Post later reported that the chief's resume also contained inaccuracies.
Even before the resume scandals broke, Chief Few was often on the defensive, scrambling to explain his policies. The chief had been criticized for not addressing the department's problems with aging trucks and malfunctioning communications equipment, for obsessing over regulations governing facial hair and sleepwear, and for a deterioration in the department's emergency response times.
Reached yesterday at fire department headquarters, Chief Few declined requests for an interview from a reporter for The Times, saying he "had to get to another appointment."
Fire department spokeswoman Lisa Bass said Chief Few invited a select group of journalists "who had been fair to him in the past" to discuss his resignation yesterday afternoon.
Those journalists included Tom Sherwood of WRC-TV (Channel 4), Clarence Williams of The Washington Post, Paul Wagner of WTTG-TV (Channel 5) and Derek Ward of WTOP Radio (AM 1500). WTOP provided a tape of the briefing to The Times.
"I just feel like my time has come to move on," Chief Few said, adding that the mayor had not asked him to resign, nor did he try to persuade him to stay.
Chief Few said he "would like to write a book about his experience in the fire service" and that he would like to be a fire chief again.
"That's God's commission for me," he said.
Council members learned of Chief Few's resignation just hours before it was announced to the public. Several members were pleased with the chief's decision to quit, but others were upset the mayor had waited so long to inform them of the chief's resignation.
Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, who had fought to get the chief fired, said the resignation was "long overdue."
"It is a step in the right direction for public safety and for the residents of the District," Mr. Fenty said.
D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the council was not aware that Chief Few had submitted his resignation until Mr. Williams revealed it during breakfast yesterday morning. She said that at her urging, Council Chairman Linda Cropp asked about the status of Chief Few.
"He told us he would be announcing his resignation today," Mrs. Patterson said.
She said the mayor gave no details of how a transition would occur or who would run the department until Chief Few's departure. She said she hoped that Mr. Williams would quickly name an interim chief and start looking for a successor.
"A quick decision is in order," Mrs. Patterson said. "It has been difficult to locate the leadership for the last two months. I don't want the same thing to happen in the next two months."
Tony Bullock, spokesman for Mr. Williams, said the mayor didn't announce Chief Few's resignation to council members because of a busy travel schedule, and he said yesterday was the first time the mayor had an opportunity to meet with council members.
"It was not a desirable situation to have this much time pass prior to the public announcement of the resignation," Mr. Bullock said, adding that the mayor "wanted to be there to take questions from the press."
Chief Few yesterday said questions about his resumes and those of his three top appointees had been a "distraction."
The three fire officials were friends of Chief Few's and worked under him when he headed the East Point, Ga., Fire Department in the 1990s.
Of the three, only Deputy Chief Bruce A. Cowan, the city's fire marshal, remains on the job.
Assistant Chief of Services Gary L. Garland's resignation took effect Sunday, and Assistant Chief of EMS Operations Marcus R. Anderson's resignation will take effect June 28.
The Washington Post reported on April 12 that Chief Few's resume erroneously stated that he had received a degree from Morris Brown College in Atlanta and received a "1998 Fire Chief of the Year" award from the International Association of Fire Fighters, which did not bestow such awards.
Chief Few reiterated that the mistakes on his resume originated in the mayor's office of communications. He did not defend the resumes of his assistants.
City Administrator John Koskinen, who had been investigating the chief's resume, said the probe would end with Chief Few's resignation. He said Chief Few agreed that it was time for the good of the department and for himself to move on and that the city was negotiating with Chief Few on a severance package.
"The mayor has the authority to give a separation payment of up to 12 weeks," Mr. Koskinen said. He said the city will make the payment public once the mayor determines how much to give the chief.
Mr. Koskinen said a formal list of candidates to fill the void will be ready within three weeks.
"We will certainly be looking at the senior officers in the department first for a new chief," Mr. Koskinen said. "Whoever we get to come in has to know that they will get the full support of the mayor, even if things don't go good right away."
But he said a search committee will be formed after discussions with members of the council, public safety specialists and members of the fire department union are concluded. The city again will contract a search firm to find a new chief, he said.
Mr. Bullock said an interim chief could be selected as soon as a week or 10 days and serve pending a decision on a permanent chief. He said the interim chief will work with Chief Few to create "an opportunity for a smooth and orderly transition."
Leading a short list of contenders for the interim chief's job is Adrian Thompson, assistant chief of operations.
Chief Thompson, nicknamed "The Police" for his strict adherence to regulations, has been signing department memos, special orders and general orders for the past two months.
Some rank-and-file department members applauded the chief's departure. One said Chief Few had been "in over his head from the beginning." Several criticized the mayor for allowing the chief to remain as a lame duck for 60 days.
"If he's gone, let him be gone and name an interim chief right away," one firefighter said. "To say he's resigning July 31 leaves all the troops unsure of what to do for the next two months."
Jim Keary and Jon Ward contributed to this report.


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