City Paper is not for tourists
Last night, two firefighters—-Greg Bowyer and Gerald Pennington—-announced their plans to file a lawsuit against the fire department. We detailed their case roughly an hour ago on City Desk.
Since announcing his imminent lawsuit against the fire department, Bowyer says his day has gone pretty normal.
Bowyer has been on desk duty for months. Pennington gets to pass out hot cocoa and snacks to firefighters. They used to investigate fires. That is, they contend, until they started complaining about how fire investigations had become a joke—-how major fires were being investigated by inexperienced personnel and just not done correctly.
Sometimes Bowyer gets to go out and check on smoke detectors. Today wasn’t one of those days.
It’s 2:24 p.m.
“I’ve just been sitting here all day. We haven’t had any smoke detectors today. I came in at 0600 hours and I’ve sat here at the firehouse all day,” Bowyer says. “Likewise, Pennington. There hasn’t been any major fires so he hasn’t passed out any granola bars or hot chocolate. This is a very typical day.”
Except today, a release has been sent out announcing the press conference for tomorrow at noon at Eastern Market. Now he has a lawyer who speaks for him. The release states:
“According to attorney David J. Marshall of Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP, which represents the firefighters, the lawsuit will detail a campaign of harassment and retaliation that DCFEMS and Chief Rubin launched when Bowyer and Pennington began to speak out about botched fire investigations, including the investigation of the fire that destroyed the historic Eastern Market in June 2007. The lawsuit alleges that the department mishandled a number of fire investigations and then misrepresented critical facts to the public. Bowyer and Pennington also blew the whistle on various instances of mismanagement and abuse of authority in the department.”
The response from his fellow fighters today has been: “Fear and outrage. Fear of what this administration would do if they came forward or spoke out. And outrage at how this department is operating internally. I was just talking to a member today, a white official, he was just like the morale is at the lowest it’s ever been at the department,” Bowyer says.
Bowyer says some brave firefighters promised him they would come to the press conference. “Since this has been going on, we’ve gotten so much support. It’s the only thing that’s kept us going,” Bowyer says.