City Desk

Rosenbaum Medic Can Keep Job, Appeals Court Says

Selena Walker, the D.C. emergency medical technician who decided to take a gravely injured man to a distant hospital so she could run some errands afterward, was fired illegally by the city, the District's high court ruled today [PDF].

That man was David Rosenbaum, the New York Times reporter who was assaulted on a Chevy Chase street in January 2006 and later died of his injuries. City medics initially diagnosed Rosenbaum, 63, as being drunk, and Walker, according to the findings of a inspector general's investigation, chose to take him to Howard University Hospital rather than the much closer Sibley Memorial Hospital. She told her crewmate that was "because she needed to run her errands in that neighborhood, including going to the ATM and going by her house." The delay in his care, among other medic errors, contributed to his death.

After the investigation wrapped up in June 2006, the city moved to fire Walker. But it was already too late, it turns out.

The court today upheld an earlier administrative ruling that Walker's firing had violated city rules that place a 90-business-day limit on how long officials can wait after they "knew or should have known of the act or occurrence allegedly constituting cause" for a reprimand or firing.

According to the administrative judge and now a three-judge D.C. Court of Appeals panel, that 90-day period should have began when it was first alleged that Walker had broken department rules by directing the ambulance to go to Howard rather than Sibley. That happened in a round of initial interviews on Jan. 18, 2006, meaning that the city had until May 26 of that year to fire Walker. Instead, Walker wasn't fired until June 16, the day after the IG report was released.

The city argued that because there were some inconsistencies in those initial statements of Walker and another person in her ambulance crew, the 90-day rule should not have kicked in until the investigation's conclusion. But Senior Judge William C. Pryor found that "there is no substantial conflict between the respective statements" and thus the 90-day window began well before that.

Pryor wrote that the D.C. Council "has consistently articulated a policy of expeditious handling of adverse actions" and that it "did not intend that an agency should embark, free of any deadline, on an investigative period."

Attorney General Peter Nickles reacted to the ruling this afternoon in an interview with NewsChannel 8's Bruce DePuyt. "This is a very disappointing case," he said. "Our view was, when a individual is dissembling...we should only take action when we gathered all the facts. We'll fight back, but this was a setback."

Nickles added that the ruling "may be the last word on this matter" but he hinted that some fix for future circumstances may be in the offing.

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  • Typical DC BS

    Give her some absolute crap jobs until she quits. What a joke.

  • Jamie

    I understand the need for limits like the 90-day one, lest employees hang in perpetual limbo or supervisors try to dig back for already-concluded investigations so as to sack an employee for a lesser offense. But it amazes me that there's no exception for public health and safety employees.

  • Lee

    Jamie it's 90 business days, Count 90 business days from today,(business days excludes weekends and holidays under DC Law) and you will see that there was no excuse for the District not meeting that deadline. 90 business days from today would be May 17, 2010. They would have you believe that they are restricted by time constraints; this is incompetence by the managers in that agency.

  • Fred

    Disgusting.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Yes, Lee is right. There was plenty of time here for the District to act - pure incompetence once again on the part of District management lets a wholly incompetent woman keep her job.

    This has happened recently in a different case. I don't remember the case now.

    This was another colossal failure on the part of the Fenty administration. All DC residents & visitors are at risk. Call 911 at your own risk - oh yeah, that's the case! The 911 scandal on the house fire at 21st Street NW by the Phillips. DC was dilatory & ended up not being able to discipline the workers, as I recall.

  • Rick Mangus

    Whats the difference between the DC Government and Metro, the answer is nothing! Both hire incompetent employees and keep them on the payroll because the criminals at the union intimadate the City and Metro, like a scene from the 'Godfather'.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Rick, you're wrong. It's not the unions - it's incompetent District officials. Ninety days is plenty of time to start - to start - disciplinary proceedings. Virtually every Federal, state, & local government has the same or similar provisions. The problem is, DC is dysfunctional.

    That's the problem - incompetent managers in the District government, not unions.

  • Terry Miller

    The problem is not the union or the agency officials, it is the D.C. Council!

    The 90 day rule was enacted by the Council and it ONLY applies to police and fire department employees in DC. The rule is held in abeyance for pending investigations by the Metropolitan Police Department, but not the IG. By the time the IG released it report, it was more than 90 business days from the date of the incident. This effects the Metropolitan Police, too. If one of their members is under investigation by the IG or by police in another jurisdiciton besides D.C., the rule is not held in abeyance. This puts the agency in the position of acting BEFORE criminal investigations are over, or they lose the disciplinary cases. Why is anything being investigated if the results come out too late for the agency to do anything about it?

    That rule was enacted by the Council (over the objections of Police and Fire Departments), and created by Ms. Kathy Patterson. I believe there was legislation recently introduced to change this in the Council, but I don't know what happened to it. Now Council members (and the public too) will go on line and on TV and huff and puff about government ineptitude, when they actually caused the problem!

    By the way the inept "government officials" who were present during the Rosenbaum "incident" have all been fired or forced into retirement. There is a whole new crew there and I would bet that the are a slew of cases where they have not met that deadline, and no one knows because no one cares about anything but Rosenbaum!

    It is an easy fix if the Council would just do it.

  • Kat

    Is it possible to go after her for gross negligence?

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  • proballdc

    No matter what you think about the EMT, her reinstatement was due to the incompetence of the Attorney General, Peter Nickles, and the Fire Department for failing to adhere to laws and collective bargaining agreements that they entered into with the unions associated with employee dismissals.

    Nickles, as the attorney general, knew, or should have known, that the law and/or contract agreement states that there were "x" number of days by which any adverse actions against the employee must BEGIN. That it took them over a year to even begin any disciplinary action is what created this result.

    Don't blame the incompetent employee for seeking to keep her job in this recessionary environment. Blame the politicians and managers who failed to do their jobs.

    Just as the social workers were reinstated following the Bonita Jacks case after being summarily fired without due process, this falls right in line with this administrations track record. Ignore the law and legal agreements, take action, and have decisions reversed with back pay. In short, this EMT just had a four year vacation on the city's dime.

    Thanks alot Peter Nickles.

  • S.E.

    As stated earlier: It's not the Unions, it's the Admministration. The "Upper Management" of the Fire Dept. came up through the union. The person in charge of discipline for the Department was a long time member of the Executive Board of the union, and helped to develop the policies. This Administration will make more D.C. workers millionaires than any other in history.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Exactly correct, S.E. People love to blame workers even when it is management at fault. The Fenty administration is on a wealth creation program - helping Fenty's friends get rich & richer, & then trying to screw over workers who in turn get huge court judgments against the District.

    It is one of the ironies of "modern" America. People want to shit on workers & praise billionaire thieves & fraudsters, even though 90% of us are workers, 9.99% managers, & .00000000000000000000001% rich people.

    You unenlightened unreconstructed mentally-crippled retards deserve all the shit you're getting & are going to get. Maybe when you're all homeless serfs you'll learn something, but I doubt it, b/c since Reagan & his successors killed schools & built prisons, only a tiny minority of Americans receive a decent educations.

  • dcuser

    Whether or not we blame the employee for trying to keep her job, we can still blame her for not doing her damn job when David Rosenbaum's life was at stake.

    If she had a shred of human dignity, she would apologize to his family and beg -- beg! -- their forgiveness. Her selfish, unprofessional actions may have cost a life.

    I only hope that everyone else commenting on this board has a more professional EMT if their own lives are at stake.

  • S.E.

    There's plenty of blame to go around. We can start with the EMT and probably end with Howard University Hospital. In spite of the actions, (or lack there of) of the D.C. Fire Dept., Mr. Rosenbaum laid unattended and untriaged for over an hour on a gurney in the ER. He died two days later.

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