Loose Lips

IG Report Faults Reserve Fleet Data

A newly public report by the Office of the Inspector General shows that Fire Department Chief Ken Ellerbe was potentially alerted to the fact that his department had faulty information about the department's reserve fleet a day before Ellerbe and his deputies presented that faulty reserve fleet information to a D.C. Council committee.

On Feb. 19, Ellerbe received an initial management alert report from the Office of the Inspector General saying that "many vehicles designated as reserve vehicles were out-of-service and could not be used if needed as frontline replacement vehicles in neighborhood fire stations, or for large-scale emergencies or mass casualty events." The report when on to detail how a daily report issued by the department on the status of its fleet was listing vehicles as reserves that had been out of service, "some for more than two years."

A day later, Ellerbe testified before the Council's public safety committee and made no mention that the information about the reserve fleet he submitted may have been inaccurate.

On March 13, Fox 5's Paul Wagner reported on allegations made by the fire fighters union that the department was improperly counting fire trucks that had been sold or been out of service for years as part of the department's reserve fleet. Right after the story aired, Ellerbe put out a statement saying the union was right and thanking it for "bringing this inaccurate information to our attention."

Ellerbe placed the blame for the department submitting bad information to the Council at the feet of a deputy fire chief whose retirement had been announced a few weeks earlier.

The IG report notes several instances when investigators tested so-called reserve vehicles only to find that many wouldn't start or had other mechanical issues. In one case, fire department staff couldn't locate the keys to an ambulance that was listed as a reserve. The IG also noted that one of the ladder trucks that was listed as a reserve had a sign on it saying it had been out of service since 2010; Fox5's report included a picture of the very same truck.

The IG's report also paraphrases an unnamed senior fire department official saying the department "has reported to the D.C. Council that trucks were in reserve status when in fact they were decommissioned and could not be deployed immediately."

A spokesman for Ellerbe has not responded to requests for comment. Ellerbe issued a statement this afternoon thanking the IG for providing "some necessary guidance" but did not address the timing of the report. Ward 6 Councilmartyr Saint Tommy Wells, who heads the Council's public safety committee, says he plans on asking Ellerbe about the timing of the IG's report at an upcoming oversight hearing.

"I will give the chief an opportunity to explain. But it certainly does not look good," Wells says.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • management 101

    If Gray doesn't can this chief, this becomes a perfect example of why government is often seen as broken. A private contractor providing this service - that is failing to meet the levels of service set forth in the contract - would be fined or replaced.

  • noodlez

    THIS IS NOTHING BUT INMATES TRYING TO DICTATE THE TERMS OF THEIR PRISON TIME.

    THEY DIDN'T WANT OR LIKE ELLERBE FROM THE START AND THEY ARE SEEMINGLY CONSPIRING TO MAKE IT EASY FOR THE MAYOR TO MAKE A EASY DECISION REGARDING HIS TENURE.

    ELLERBE IS NOT HELPING HIS OWN CASE BY LOOKING LIKE HE IS OUT OF TOUCH WITH ISSUES THAT HAVE PLAGUED DCFD FOR YEARS THAT ARE NOW BECOMING MORE ACUTE.

  • http://ebrown eugene brown

    where is paul quander the deputy mayor of public safety and mayor gray in this report. quander is appointed to oversee, manage and politically buffer those high level public safety responsibilities...okay he's too busy hugging cameras and kissing mics...squander is accountable for this false reporting and poor management too. this position was recreated for him. he needs to leave our city's payroll as well as his boss and the fire chief.

  • management 101

    noodlez - this isn't the inmate's report. This is the IG's report, that quotes 'Managers' not labor. I'm getting tired of every incompetent DC politician or agency head throwing the race card whenever the cold, hard facts about their misfeasance comes to light.

  • noodlez

    @MGNT-WHO'S PLAYING THE RACE CARD?
    REALLY CAN'T SPEAK TO DCFD BUT MOST MGR'S COME FROM LABOR FORCE AND STILL IDENTIFY WITH LABOR UNLESS THERE IS A STRIKE THAT IS WHEN THEY HAVE TO STAND WITH THE OTHER SIDE.

    THIS IS AN EASY FIX!
    LONG TERM-WHY NOT OFFER UP TRAINING FOR DCFD MECHANICS FOR FUTURE LABOR FORCE?

    SHORT TERM-PULL IN TEMP MECHANIC POOL TO GET VEHICLES UP AND RUNNING NOW.

    BLAME CAN BE ASSIGNED LATER!

  • management 101

    Noodlez - Ellerbe did when the firefighter's starting opposing him last year.

    It's pretty cut and dry, management or labor, the fire trucks and ambulances are broken and not being fixed. This is a fact known by the last administration, which told this administration 2 years ago that it was and would continue to be a problem. Now, 2 years into the new administration, the new chief is caught in a lie about how many fire trucks and ambulances they have, and he blames the old chief.

    Long term fix -- establish multiple competing maintenance contracts. There's no need for a public mechanic shop, mechanic service is something the private sector is GREAT at. There doesn't appear to be any "emergency" mechanical service performed by the public shop, and even so, private shops offer "emergency" roadside assistance anyway.

    Short term fix -- invite private and public shops to inspect and bid on repairs to the defunct fleet, and set the bounty for each vehicle at the penultimate bid, while awarding first right of refusal to the lowest bidder.

  • Drez

    The repair shop was just renovated and looks great.
    It seems to me that management invested significant money and effort into improving working conditions. It's surprising that this investment would not yield a better product in terms of improved equipment reliability.

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