Loose Lips

Cheh Wants Fire Chief to Resign

Ward 3 D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh has had enough of D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. In a letter to Judiciary and Public Safety Committee chairman Tommy Wells today,  Cheh says it's time for Ellerbe to get the boot.

"It is now very plain that the agency's ability to respond to emergencies has been significantly degraded, and I lay that at the doorstep of poor management," Cheh writes. "I believe that the current Chief no longer has the confidence of the people of the District and should resign."

Cheh also wants the mayor's office to submit an overhaul plan for DCFEMS within 90 days.

What's Cheh's beef with Ellerbe? Where does LL start? The proverbial last straw for Cheh was Wells' committee report on the sorry state of DCFEMS, including a shortage of paramedics and working ambulances. Based on Wells' report, the committee rejected Ellerbe's plan to move ambulances from overnight shifts to the afternoon and evening.

Ellerbe hasn't responded to a request for comment, but it's hard to believe that his boss' boss—Vince Gray—is taking Cheh to heart. After all, she called on him to resign, too.

Update, 3:25 p.m.: Deputy Mayor Paul Quander is sticking with Ellerbe. "We should stay the course," Ellerbe says in a statement. Read all of it below:

Deputy Mayor Paul Quander has issued the following statement today following D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh’s call for the resignation of Fire/EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe.

“The District’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is in a much better position and operating more effectively now than when Chief Kenneth Ellerbe took the helm in January 2011, “ said Quander, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.

“Many of the incidents that Chief Ellerbe has dealt with during his tenure have been rooted in issues that preceded his hiring as chief. In three decades with the department, he has gotten a deep understanding of the issues and challenges that FEMS faces.

“In two-and-an-half years under his leadership, he has taken action to deal with many of those issues. As problem arise, they have been met with careful consideration and action to improve the department and better serve the residents of the District of Columbia. Moves to shorten ambulance response times have been made, and more lie ahead. The department’s vehicle fleet is in better order, with reserve units ready to roll when they’re needed. A work group comprised of citizens, firefighters and members of several city agencies will soon be making recommendations on how FEMS can further improve services.

“There is still work that needs to get done to make the department the best it can be. I support Chief Ellerbe is his efforts to make that happen,” Deputy Mayor Quander concluded. “We should stay the course.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh should have sent her letter to Mayor Vincent Gray because Fire Chief Ellerbe is a member of the mayor's cabinet and only the mayor can terminate Ellerbe, not Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells.

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  • cminus

    @IANALD, If it were just a matter of asking Ellerbee to resign Cheh could send that to Gray, but she also wants an overhaul plan for the department. So she's writing to Wells because Wells, as chairman of the appropriate Council committee, has more of a basis to make that request.

  • drez

    This of course also puts Cheh on record as urging Wells to call for Ellerbee's replacement.
    It's his committee and his place to call for this.

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    Drez, only the Mayor can fire Ellerbe, not D.C. legislators. Any Councilmember can request the firing of any District Agency Director, however, they have no power to terminate them.

  • drez

    Yes, that is clear.
    By registering the request through a public letter to the chair of the appropriate oversight committee, 1) Cheh makes her opinion known 2) respects the committee structure. 3) puts pressure on Wells.

  • RealDC

    Really, Cheh? Why don't you resign?

    This council is the worse in the country and definitely the worst we have ever had in DC.

    If the member is not a crook then they are an idiot. In some cases, they are both.

    Cheh needs to RESIGN!!

  • Concerned Senior

    Nothing surprises me about Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.
    So are Paul Quander and Mayor Gray potted plants when it involves the termination of the Mayor's appointees? ............Wells?????????

    This Hussy also called for the Mayor to step down and he hasn't been charged, much less tried or convicted. This from a Professor(?) of Consitutional Law????

    WOMAN PLEASE...............

    Justice Ruth Ginsburg(?) must be cringing since she held the Bible during Mary, Mary's first swearing-in.

  • IAmNotALiberalDemocrat

    RealDC, you are correct, this is the worse DC Council since the 1973 Home Rule Act.

  • Ward Citizen


    "RealDC, you are correct, this is the worse DC Council since the 1973 Home Rule Act.

    Worse than a council which included Harry Thomas Jr., Michael Brown and "AIDs Grift" "Taxi Cash" Graham and presided over by "Kwame"? I don't think so.

    Unfortunately, Wells could not read Cheh's letter because it was all blurry, all the words were repeated twice, and his hands were shaking too much to hold the paper. I hear though that in his bid for Mayor (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha...) Wells is "drinking less".

    Cheh is way late to this party. John Aravosis was trying to get some accountability from "Chuckles" Ramsey, et al, way back in '03 when the department failed to respond to a fatal house fire in Dupont Circle and it was later learned operators were not taking calls. Lanier, "Chuckles" acolyte, is the one who should go.

  • Barney Miller

    and how long was Vinny Barbarino on council.....and never took a crooked dime? cough cough cough most straight laced folks don't get search warrants served on them....must not be running for re election keeping Ken "the hire residents only savior" in this position. Well he hired Sulimon Brown and didn't realize he shouldn't have....maybe he doesn't realize by keeping "the savior" his second term will be a strike out (if he even runs). But hey, keep throwing smoke and SOME of your flaws might go unnoticed.

  • Mr. Obvious

    Yes, yes yes, the Council cannot fire any Mayoral appointee. However, the Council is not powerless. Remember, they control the purse strings. Want to send a message - reduce the Fire Chief's salary to $1. That is a strong incentive to look elsewhere, especially when the bills start rolling in....

  • http://citypaper sly

    Mary Cheh will never be MAYOR!