Watch testimony of Chief Ellerbe at Wednesday's City Council hearing (Fire department portion of hearing begins at 1:23)
Did former DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Dennis Rubin or his administration resort to trickery when 1700 polo shirts made of 100 percent cotton were ordered for firefighters at a cost of $70,000 to taxpayers? Current Chief Kenneth Ellerbe raised that possibility in an interview with WRC-TV's Darcy Spencer as he explained why those shirts have never been used by firefighters. The report gave no specifics on what kind of trickery Chief Ellerbe was referring to.
Chief Ellerbe banned the use of the shirts because they came with a patch introduced under the Rubin administration that Ellerbe has now banned. The shirts are in a warehouse where they have been for many months. According to news reports, firefighters will continue to wear uniforms made of polyester and blends that can contribute to burns instead of the new shirts.
The very existence of the shirts, until recently, was a mystery or secret. So much so that DC Councilmember Phil Mendelson indicated at a hearing that he had not been getting the straight scoop from Chief Ellerbe when he previously asked about the shirts.
“I don’t want to waste anything, but I don't want to be responsible for something somebody else ordered that they know we’re not going to use, either,” he said. “Sometimes there's trickery in terms of one administration to another, as well.”
"It's been a huge push for my membership for fire-resistive station wear, and we’re not backing off of that,” union President Ed Smith said. “As long as it’s provided – these shirts have been paid for by the taxpayers, and they should be in use.”
Chairman Phil Mendelson was obviously frustrated over getting the runaround about the polo shirts, which he had been told didn’t exist.
“This has been a big rumor, and there have been a lot of complaints about it,” he said.
Fire officials said they've received inquiries from D.C.'s Inspector General's Office about the shirts.
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Also on STATter911 …
- DC still in the news: Burned firefighter speaks out about shirts sitting in storage. – March 9, 2012
- The latest from your Nation’s Capital: Mayor backs fire chief after article on sexual harassment claims. $70,000 in shirts that are safer for firefighters but have the wrong logo sit in warehouse. – March 8, 2012
- UPDATED: A new week & DC fire is still in the news. Chief Kenneth Ellerbe says media stories are sensationalistic & unfair. – March 12, 2012
- President Obama gets DCFD T-shirt at ACFD firehouse. Firefighter hands it over at veterans’ job initiative announcement. – February 4, 2012
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