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A new issue appears to be on the table in the ongoing problems between DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and some of his firefighters. It revolves around a verbal order transmitted Saturday through the chain of command to DC firehouses. It addresses the possibility of protests at Mayor Vincent Gray's State of the District speech to be delivered tomorrow night at the Historic Sixth & I Synagogue in Northwest.
The warning of potential punishment comes following the walkout by firefighters at Chief Ellerbe's January 24 speech on the state of the department.
Here's the description of the latest issue from a letter posted today by IAFF Local 36 president Ed Smith:
Washington City Paper's Alan Suderman, who writes the column Loose Lips, say he has pictures from a half dozen log books from city firehouses documenting the verbal order that came via Deputy Chief Larry Jackson. But the word from the department spokesman denies the involvement of Chief Ellerbe:
Ellerbe spokesman Lon Walls says the whole episode is "much ado about nothing." Walls says that while Ellerbe expects his troops to behave professionally at the mayor's speech, he did not send out "any kind of directive like that."
"There's not been any message," says Walls.
The Washington Post's Mike Debonis has more from spokesman Walls in his District of Debonis blog:
Lon Walls, an FEMS spokesman, said “there was no directive” and explained a lieutenant who is also a union member “misconstrued” departmental discussions.
Walls said the department “respects their right to freedom of speech,” but declined to say that firefighters who wished to protest could do so without fear of discipline. “It would not be appreciated,” he said. “It would be frowned upon.”
Also on STATter911 …
- UPDATED: Scores of firefighters in DCFD garb show for mayor’s speech. No comment from Chief Ellerbe on spokesman Lon Walls’ claims that previous protest was ‘racist act’. – February 7, 2012
- DC Chief Kenneth Ellerbe comments on suspension of spokesman Lon Walls over racism allegations. More discussion of order telling firefighters to behave at mayor’s speech. – February 11, 2012
- DC Fire spokesman Lon Walls suspended after Tweets that DCFD protests were ‘racist act’. Mayor distances himself from comments. City Paper profiles Chief Kenneth Ellerbe’s battles with IAFF Local 36. – February 9, 2012
- DC Fire Spokesman Lon Walls calls firefighters’ protest of Chief Ellerbe a ‘racist act’. Posts thoughts on Facebook & Twitter. – February 7, 2012
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