A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday ordered the city's fire department to reinstate at least temporarily five firefighters who were suspended without pay earlier this year for alleged drug infractions.
Judge Iralene G. Barnes granted the temporary reinstatement after the firemen filed suit claiming that department officials violated personnel regulations in suspending them.
Barnes' order remains in effect until June 15, when a court hearing on the suit is scheduled.
The firemen were suspended without pay in March and April for infractions related to alleged drug use in three of the cases and refusing to submit to tests designed to detect drug use in the other two.
According to the suit, the suspensions were "arbitrary and unwarranted" and the firemen were "subjected to harassment."
Romeo Spaulding, head of the Progressive Firefighters, a predominantly black, non-union group representing the suspended firemen, said he was "elated" by the court's ruling.
"We don't condone drug use," Spaulding said. "But we also do not condone violating personnel rights."
The suit names Mayor Marion Barry and fire Chief Theodore R. Coleman as defendants. Coleman was unavailable for comment yesterday. Deputy Chief Gerald Eckholm said of the suspensions: "We do not make any rash decisions. We'll just have to see what happens."
According to the suit, the department's Investigative Board is investigating the matter.
Spaulding denied that any of the firefighters are drug users. He said they should not have been ordered to take drug tests without being told why they were asked to do so.