D.C. Firefighters Face Discipline over Appearance with President Obama

Each firefighter must file a special report about how they came to attend the event
President Barack Obama greets first responders after speaking in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House Complex in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (NBC Washington/AP photo)
Published Friday, February 22, 2013

WASHINGTON (NBC Washington) - Three local firefighters are facing possible disciplinary action after appearing with President Obama during a press event.

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Earlier this week the president was flanked by first responders as he spoke about the impact of sequestration. Kenneth Ellerbe, chief of D.C.'s Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department, told News4 the three members of DCFEMS who participated in the event may have violated department regulations.

“I didn’t know about it, the deputy mayor didn’t know about it, the mayor didn’t know about it," Ellerbe said. "There should be protocol followed anytime one of our employees representing the District of Columbia appears at a public event.”

Ellerbe says the three have each been ordered to file a special report on the event detailing how they came to appear with the president and who authorized it.

“How did they get there, why were they there and why didn’t we know about it before?” Ellerbe said.

Ed Smith, president of Local 36 of the firefighter’s union, said his office facilitated the appearance by the firefighters. “The request came through the International Association of Firefighters,” Smith said, adding that it’s not the first time D.C. firefighters have been asked to appear with the president.

But he said, it’s the first time it’s been an issue. “We’ve done this before. I would hope it doesn’t come to any discipline. They were supporting our president,” he said.

Ellerbe would not identify the department members involved, but one of those pictured is Lt. Robert Alvarado, who has been disciplined in the past by Ellerbe. In 2012 Alvarado was placed on leave after he wore a uniform with an outdated logo.

Ellerbe says requiring Alvarado and the others to explain why they attended the event in their dress uniforms is not payback for any previous incidents.

“There’s no payback, we don’t operate in a payback environment. I know folks say that but it’s not true.” Ellerbe insited.

Ellerbe says none of the firefighters are facing termination, but added one of those involved is a woman who is new to the department and still on a probationary period.

Follow Mark Segraves on Twitter at @SegravesNBC4

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D.C. Firefighters Face Discipline over Appearance with President Obama

Each firefighter must file a special report about how they came to attend the event
President Barack Obama greets first responders after speaking in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House Complex in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (NBC Washington/AP photo)

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