New DYRS Chief Helped Ruin Fire Investigators’ Careers
Yesterday, Mayor Adrian Fenty fired DYRS' interim-director and replaced him with AG Peter Nickles' "top aide" Robert Hildum. In today's WaPo story, the controversial attorney general had high praise for his side kick:
"Nickles said that Hildum's experience as a prosecutor is an asset at a time when some critics have said that the agency's focus on rehabilitation has come at the expense of public safety. 'I think Rob Hildum brings that terrific approach of balancing rehabilitation with protection of the community,' Nickles said."
But two Fire Department investigators turned whistleblowers may have a different view of Hildum's prosecutorial style. Hildum was instrumental in helping Fire Department brass ruin their careers.
In recent years, Greg Bowyer and Gerald Pennington spoke out repeatedly at what they considered to be shoddy investigative work by the Fire Department, racist hiring practices, and improper prosecutions by the OAG. They called out several cases–including the Eastern Market fire–which they claim were not handled properly by authorities. They have since been demoted for their efforts. Hildum was instrumental in Bowyer's demotion, erroneously claiming in a letter to the U.S. Attorney's Office [see PDF] that the investigator had committed perjury during a trial. Bowyer ended up detailed out of the fire investigations unit. He now works in a unit testing fire hydrants. The U.S. Attorney's Office never brought a perjury charge against Bowyer. [For the full accounting of Bowyer and Pennington's case see this timeline]. Hildum eventually wrote a damaging letter saying he wouldn't support any of Pennington's cases. Hildum's letter writing campaign began after the two filed a complaint against an OAG attorney (who was at one point a very questionable police officer; she resigned from the force while under investigation for covering up mistakes made in a missing person's case).
Pennington has been cleared of all charges but remains out of fire investigations; he's now the most-over qualified firefighter to ever ride an ambulance.
Hildum apparently shares many of the same dickish traits as AG Nickles. In Bowyer's trial board hearing, Hildum admitted that one of the reasons he wrote those critical letters is that Bowyer and Pennington had filed a complaint against one of his own.
Bowyer and Pennington have a civil suit pending in federal court. "The fire department and the Office of Attorney General retaliated against Bowyer and Pennington for refusing to go along with faulty investigations, prosecutions and cover-ups," says their attorney David J. Marshall. "Through their lawsuit, they intend to expose the motivation behind the actions taken against them and to correct the injustice that they suffered."
*classic file photo by Darrow Montgomery.