- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2010

A deputy fire chief placed on leave-without-pay status in Washington so he could stay on the department’s books after he took a job as a fire chief in Florida has resigned from the District’s fire department.

D.C. Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin last month sent a letter to Deputy Chief Kenneth Ellerbe revoking a personnel exchange program that allowed Chief Ellerbe to serve with both departments at once. Chief Rubin ordered Chief Ellerbe to return to the District or leave the department.

“He has resigned his position with the District of Columbia Fire Department,” Deputy Chief Kenneth Crosswhite, a D.C. fire department spokesman, said Friday of Chief Ellerbe.

Fire department spokesman Pete Piringer told The Washington Times last month that the unusual arrangement was made to keep Chief Ellerbe in the department until he turns 50 in April so he could collect his pension immediately upon his retirement instead of deferring his benefits until age 55.

The arrangement would have allowed Chief Ellerbe, whose salary was $149,892, to collect up to 80 percent of his final pay, or almost $600,000, over the five years until he turns 55.

Reached by phone Thursday, Chief Ellerbe declined to comment.

Chief Crosswhite said Chief Rubin was unaware of the personnel exchange arrangement by which Chief Ellerbe remained, on paper, an employee of the District until it was brought to his attention by a reporter from The Times.

“It was not the intent of the exchange program,” Chief Crosswhite said.

Mr. Piringer said last month the fire department deferred to the city’s Department of Human Resources and that Brender L. Gregory, director of human resources, had signed off on Chief Ellerbe’s status.

Human Resources Department officials directed The Times to file a Freedom of Information Act request for further information about Chief Ellerbe’s status, including who approved the arrangement. Citing employee privacy laws, they denied the request for documents related to Chief Ellerbe’s status.

Chief Ellerbe, a 27-year veteran of the fire department, briefly served as the District’s interim fire chief in 2000. He last served as the department’s director of community outreach.

According to the D.C. Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Retirement Plan, the fire department has a three-tier retirement system that depends on when employment began.

Chief Ellerbe, who began his tenure with the fire department in April 1982, falls under the second tier, which requires members to be at least age 50 and have at least 25 years of service to begin collecting retirement benefits immediately upon leaving the department.

• Matthew Cella can be reached at mcella@washingtontimes.com.

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