- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

The lead D.C. firefighter who responded to the emergency call for journalist David E. Rosenbaum was fired yesterday by the mayor, overruling a trial board’s findings.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, acting on the recommendations of Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, also increased the suspension of a second firefighter actions he said are to rectify “substantiated findings of government mismanagement” in the Rosenbaum case.

“There are some specific instances of misconduct and inappropriate work that required the highest level of accountability in this government that we don’t think came about in the trial board’s decision,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat.

Mr. Rosenbaum, 63, was walking in his Northwest neighborhood Jan. 6 last year when he was beaten and robbed by two men. He died two days later.

The agencies were heavily scrutinized in the aftermath, with the focus on whether a neglectful, botched emergency response contributed to Mr. Rosenbaum’s death.

An investigation into the incident found the first responders thought Mr. Rosenbaum was drunk or having a seizure. Italso found an ambulance took 23 minutes to get to the scene, in part because it was dispatched from a hospital six miles away and there were no closer units available. A fire engine with medics was on the scene within five minutes, but they were unable to take Mr. Rosenbaum to a hospital, according to investigations.

The trial board, appointed by the city’s previous fire chief, recommended the primary firefighter receive a 252 duty-hour suspension. The secondary firefighter was to receive an 84 duty-hour suspension, according to the mayor’s office.

Three other firefighter/emergency medical technicians were found not guilty.

Chief Rubin, who was appointed in March and received the board’s decision late last week, rejected te findings.

He recommended to the mayor that the primary caregiver be terminated and the secondary caregiver’s suspension be increased from 84 duty-hours to 192 duty-hours. Additionally, the employee has been barred from public contact while on duty.

“The decision that was rendered by the trial board provided a punishment that was simply too lenient,” Chief Rubin said. “It is my responsibility to bring about some wholesale changes throughout the organization to curtail what’s been described as a ‘culture of indifference.’”

Lt. Dan Dugan, president of the D.C. Firefighters Association, said the decision to overrule the trial board’s findings was “purely political” and violated the union’s contract with the city.

“It’s completely against the contract,” he said. “It’s against all rules. Why do we even have a contract if the rules are going to be ignored?”

Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said the fire chief does not have the authority to override the board’s findings, but the mayor ultimately is responsible for the decision.

According to the association’s collective-bargaining agreement with the fire and emergency medical agencies, the trial board handles all cases in which an employee may be fired, demoted or suspended for more than 20 hours.

The board, which consists of two captains and two battalion fire chiefs, decides upon guilt or innocence, as well as the penalty.

The fire chief can accept only the trial board’s recommended penalty, reduce it or dismiss the case.

The trial board is appointed by the fire chief but was already in place before Chief Rubin’s arrival.

Chief Rubin, 54, a D.C. native, was the fire chief in Atlanta for four years before coming to the District.

His nomination was confirmed yesterday by the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary by a unanimous vote.

The Rosenbaum family declined to comment on the personnel moves.

Lt. Dugan said he planned to file a grievance with the city’s labor-relations board.

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