Union President Edward C. Smith said Ellerbe’s management “places our members and the public needlessly in harm’s way.”
In recent weeks, Ellerbe has increasingly come under scrutiny over lengthy ambulance response times and questions about whether firetrucks and ambulances are properly maintained.
Ellerbe declined to be interviewed, but he issued a statement saying he is “very optimistic about the department’s future and encouraged by the service we provide to District residents and visitors.” The chief, a native of the District who came here from Sarasota, Fla., in 2011, added, “I am deeply committed to resolving the issues before us.” He previously said the department has reached the “tipping point” in regard to slow response times.
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul A. Quander Jr. said Monday that support for the chief and “his efforts to modernize and move the agency forward” remains strong.
Along with the no-confidence vote, the 1,800-member union released its own blueprint for change Monday, laying out a plan that calls for more hires, resources and training. It runs counter to Ellerbe’s proposal to pare down the department, have shorter but more frequent shifts and redeploy apparatus to match up to times when the most 911 calls are made.
The debate over contrasting visions on fire and medical service comes in the wake of a string of embarrassing incidents. Those include delays in ambulances reaching injured patients, including a D.C. police officer, and inaccurate data that Ellerbe’s command staff gave to the D.C. Council last month overstating the number of firetrucks and engines available in the department’s reserve fleet. The inspector general’s office released a report Friday that concluded that many reserve emergency vehicles would not be able to help “during large-scale operations or mass casualty events.”
Councilman Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), the public safety committee chairman, said he will demand on Thursday that Ellerbe explain how his staff submitted information for a Feb. 20 oversight hearing showing the department had an adequate reserve fleet when officials there had been given the inspector general’s report one day earlier.
“Did they purposely provide false information to the council, or were they operating under false information?” said Wells, who is considering running for mayor.
The councilman said he still has confidence in Ellerbe. But he said that testimony by the chief and his aides at the February hearing “did not give me the confidence” that the department can adequately respond to calls. “I do not trust the facts I’ve been given.”