D.C. Fire and EMS denied Friday night that three local firefighters are facing possible disciplinary action after appearing with President Obama during a press event.
Earlier this week the president was flanked by first responders as he spoke about the impact of sequestration. Kenneth Ellerbe, chief of D.C.'s Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department, told News4 the three members of DCFEMS who participated in the event may have violated department regulations.
“I didn’t know about it, the deputy mayor didn’t know about it, the mayor didn’t know about it," Ellerbe said. "There should be protocol followed anytime one of our employees representing the District of Columbia appears at a public event.”
The department released the following statement Friday night:
Contrary to reports in local media, the DC Fire and EMS Department is not considering any disciplinary action against uniformed personnel for appearing alongside President Obama. At the request of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, DC FEMS is simply reviewing its internal protocols for such appearances to ensure that both the Department and its employees are fully informed.
We fully support the efforts of President to highlight the essential and life saving work that our first-responders do every single day, and welcome his invitation for our members to participate. We're exceedingly proud of the men and women that wear the DC FEMS uniform, and thank the President for his support.
Ellerbe says the three firefighters have each been ordered to file a special report on the event detailing how they came to appear with the president and who authorized it.
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“How did they get there, why were they there and why didn’t we know about it before?” Ellerbe said.
Ed Smith, president of Local 36 of the firefighter’s union, said his office facilitated the appearance by the firefighters. “The request came through the International Association of Firefighters,” Smith said, adding that it’s not the first time D.C. firefighters have been asked to appear with the president.
But he said, it’s the first time it’s been an issue. “We’ve done this before. I would hope it doesn’t come to any discipline. They were supporting our president,” he said.
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Ellerbe would not identify the department members involved, but one of those pictured is Lt. Robert Alvarado, who has been disciplined in the past by Ellerbe. In 2012 Alvarado was placed on leave after he wore a uniform with an outdated logo.
Ellerbe says requiring Alvarado and the others to explain why they attended the event in their dress uniforms is not payback for any previous incidents.
“There’s no payback, we don’t operate in a payback environment. I know folks say that but it’s not true.” Ellerbe insisted.
Ellerbe says none of the firefighters is facing termination, but added one of those involved is a woman who is new to the department and still on a probationary period.