The D.C. government's personnel office has told a dozen ambulance paramedics and supervisors that it intends to demote them and cut their annual salaries by up to $5,000 because they unintentionally were promoted two years ago through "administrative error."
Some of the workers, all employed by the D.C. Fire Department, say they are angry and confused by the directive and may look for new jobs rather than accept the demotions and pay cuts.
"I will go when the time is convenient for me to go," said ambulance supervisor Twyla Geraci. "How can you work for a company like that?"
Geraci entered the fire department at a Grade 4 pay scale in 1978, was reclassified to a Grade 8 in 1979, and promoted to a Grade 10 supervisor earning $19,699 last year. But because she did not spend a year in each grade, as required by D.C. personnel regulations, she will be demoted to a Grade 7, earning $14,622 as of next Friday.
Jerome Stack, a paramedic, said he has been told he will be reduced from a Grade 9 to a Grade 8, a demotion that will cost him about $2,000 a year. He blamed Ambulance Chief Maurice Kilby for "not standing up for the men and women in the ambulance service."
Kilby said the decison was up to the city's personnel department.
Glen Buchanan, assistant director of personnel for the city's public safety agencies, said the 12 workers may have to repay the extra salary earned since 1979, but that no decision has been made.
He said that he plans to investigate the promotion practices in the police, fire and corrections departments to make sure that similar promotion errors do not exist. Buchanan said he wants city employes to know that he and personnel director Jose Gutierrez are "going by the book" and "won't stand for improprieties in administration."
Buchanan said the 12 workers jumped too many grades when the job classifications of 72 ambulance workers were upgraded in 1979 to better reflect the difficulty of their work. The 12 were promoted at various times since then, violating a city personnel rule that says they must spend one year in each grade before becoming eligible to move on.
Most of the 12, three of whom are supervisors, will be downgraded one or two grade levels. Buchanan said the demotions of the supervisors will save the city $10,000 this year.