- Donald Rumsfeld has ‘no idea’ if he paid taxes correctly
- Bradley Manning named honorary grand marshal of San Francisco Pride parade
- Look out PayPal: Facebook working toward mobile payments system
- U.S. rebukes Iran’s U.N. envoy pick over 1979 embassy attack
- Stoned mom avoids jail after driving 12 miles with baby on roof
- More than 100 ‘inappropriate’ encounters between NYC school staffers, students since 2009: report
- Joe Biden to Boston bombing survivors: ‘America will never, ever stand down’
- FBI failed to throughly vet Boston bombing suspect after Russian lead, report finds
- Atlanta Braves flooded with Hank Aaron hate mail: He’s a ‘scumbag’
- University: Help, our campus is too white
ACLU questions whether D.C. firefighters get due process
The District’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned that D.C. firefighters facing departmental disciplinary hearings are not receiving fair trials, according to a letter it sent to the D.C. attorney general’s office.
Citing the demotion of one fire battalion chief and the transfer of another shortly after the men presided over disciplinary hearings and issued lesser punishments than were initially proposed to the firefighters involved, legal director for the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, Arthur Spitzer, criticized D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and questioned whether employees can expect to receive due process in disciplinary hearings.
“I think that sends a very clear signal to people in the department who are asked to act as judges in a sense that they better put the chief’s desires ahead of independent judgment or they may find themselves personally injured,” Mr. Spitzer said in an interview. “There are not many people who are going to put their own careers at risk by saying to the chief something else.”
Mr. Spitzer wrote the letter, which was recently provided to The Washington Times, in May in reference to departmental charges that were being brought against Lt. Robert Alvarado as a result of an interview he gave to WTTG-TV (Fox 5) in January.
This week, the trial board that heard Lt. Alvarado’s case handed down a decision on the matter, demoting Lt. Alvarado to the rank of sergeant and suspending him from work without pay for 264 hours. The bulk of the punishment stemmed from one of several charges that the ACLU said “have no merit and apparently were added in order to increase the potential discipline that can be imposed upon him.”
Lon Walls, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services department, did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the ACLU’s concerns.
In the past, Chief Ellerbe has declined to comment on disciplinary proceedings, citing them as personnel matters.
Lt. Alvarado was charged with violating the department’s “Patient Bill of Rights” after the Fox 5 news crew captured footage of a patient who drove up to the fire station where the interview was being conducted and requested medical care.
As the interview was taking place on a public sidewalk in front of the fire station, Mr. Spitzer wrote that, “Neither Lt. Alvarado nor anyone else — including Fire Chief Ellerbe, had he been present — had any power to tell Fox News to turn off its cameras.”
The violation of a patient’s rights and insubordination charge, of which Lt. Alvarado was also found guilty, were the two charges heard by the trial board. Three other charges against him were dropped after the Attorney General’s Office received the ACLU’s letter, which challenged the basis of several of the charges.
The D.C. Fire Fighters Association is now seeking assistance from either the ACLU or the International Association of Fire Fighters for Lt. Alvarado in order to appeal the punishment, union president Ed Smith said.
“We believe that it is not proper and we are seeking assistance to help him through this rough spot,” Mr. Smith said.
“If he asks us, we certainly would consider it,” Mr. Spitzer said.
Among the other charges brought against Lt. Alvarado, but not ruled on, was a charge based on a department order that had been ruled unconstitutional in a 1990 court case.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
- Wal-Mart forced to apologize for 'mistake' favoring English-speaking shoppers
- EPA: District has second-most energy-efficient buildings
- D.C. autonomy bills introduced in Senate
- Ambitious legislation would reform traffic ticketing procedures
- Bill would loosen medical marijuana restrictions in D.C.
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By returning to goodness, the nation can achieve greatness once again
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
- Secret U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- U.S. military on high alert as Ukraine troops trade gunfire with pro-Russian militants
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- Russian fighter jet buzzes U.S. Navy destroyer in Black Sea
- PHILLIPS: What did Harry Reid know and when did he know it?
- Atlanta Braves flooded with Hank Aaron hate mail: He's a 'scumbag'
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- WEBER: Obamacare cuts home healthcare for millions of seniors
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Chaos as Manhattan building explodes