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Ward 3 D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh has had enough of D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. In a letter to Judiciary and Public Safety Committee chairman Tommy Wells today, Cheh says it’s time for Ellerbe to get the boot.
“It is now very plain that the agency’s ability to respond to emergencies has been significantly degraded, and I lay that at the doorstep of poor management,” Cheh writes. “I believe that the current Chief no longer has the confidence of the people of the District and should resign.”
Cheh also wants the mayor’s office to submit an overhaul plan for DCFEMS within 90 days.
What’s Cheh’s beef with Ellerbe? Where does LL start? The proverbial last straw for Cheh was Wells’ committee report on the sorry state of DCFEMS, including a shortage of paramedics and working ambulances. Based on Wells’ report, the committee rejected Ellerbe’s plan to move ambulances from overnight shifts to the afternoon and evening.
Ellerbe hasn’t responded to a request for comment, but it’s hard to believe that his boss’ boss—-Vince Gray—-is taking Cheh to heart. After all, she called on him to resign, too.
Update, 3:25 p.m.: Deputy Mayor Paul Quander is sticking with Ellerbe. “We should stay the course,” Ellerbe says in a statement. Read all of it below:
Deputy Mayor Paul Quander has issued the following statement today following D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh’s call for the resignation of Fire/EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe.
“The District’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is in a much better position and operating more effectively now than when Chief Kenneth Ellerbe took the helm in January 2011, “ said Quander, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.
“Many of the incidents that Chief Ellerbe has dealt with during his tenure have been rooted in issues that preceded his hiring as chief. In three decades with the department, he has gotten a deep understanding of the issues and challenges that FEMS faces.
“In two-and-an-half years under his leadership, he has taken action to deal with many of those issues. As problem arise, they have been met with careful consideration and action to improve the department and better serve the residents of the District of Columbia. Moves to shorten ambulance response times have been made, and more lie ahead. The department’s vehicle fleet is in better order, with reserve units ready to roll when they’re needed. A work group comprised of citizens, firefighters and members of several city agencies will soon be making recommendations on how FEMS can further improve services.
“There is still work that needs to get done to make the department the best it can be. I support Chief Ellerbe is his efforts to make that happen,” Deputy Mayor Quander concluded. “We should stay the course.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery