D.C. Mayor-Elect Announces Choice for Fire Chief

A former deputy chief who left the city under unusual circumstances was named to lead the District's fire department on Thursday, the same day Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray announced he would retain Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.


If confirmed, Chief Ellerbe will inherit a fire department rife with internal turmoil and struggling to fulfill its mission to provide emergency medical services. The department has been plagued by overspending, accusations of inconsistent discipline and racial inequality.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and Justice, which oversees the police and fire departments, said he was "pleased" with Mr. Gray's public-safety picks.

He said he expected that Chief Ellerbe's departure arrangement had been examined by the mayor-elect's staff and that the retirement arrangement and his tax status would come up during D.C. Council confirmation hearings.

Mr. Mendelson indicated that he had little concern about those issues.

"I'm interested in a good chief who understands fire suppression, is committed to improving EMS and is going to bring some much-needed management to that department in terms of overtime, discipline, race relations - and that's what we're getting," Mr. Mendelson said.

Introducing Chief Lanier, Mr. Gray noted first that she had scored an 80 percent approval rating in a recent public poll. He went on to compliment the chief on "the great progress in reducing crime and violence that she and the police force have achieved."

Under Chief Lanier, homicides in the city once widely derided as the "murder capital" of the U.S. have dropped to the lowest levels in decades.

Standing at the podium, Mr. Gray declined to discuss whether he had considered other candidates for police chief.

"The person who's being appointed is the person behind me," he said.

The pick drew the ire of Kristopher Baumann, head of the labor committee that represents Metropolitan Police officers.

"We're disappointed," Mr. Baumann said, calling the decision to retain Chief Lanier "political." Mr. Baumann, who has been a persistent critic of the chief's, and the union were early and vocal supporters of Mr. Gray.

Mr. Baumann said that in their discussions during the mayoral campaign, Mr. Gray never committed to replacing the chief, but he said the candidate had told him he would listen to the union's concerns and weigh them.

Mr. Baumann said he doesn't feel that happened.

"This is the first thing we see out of the new mayor," he said, chagrined.

Mr. Gray also named Irvin B. Nathan to replace controversial Attorney General Peter J. Nickles.

A senior partner who ran the white-collar-crime department at Arnold & Porter from 1994 to 2007, Mr. Nathan comes from Capitol Hill, where, since leaving private practice, he has served as general counsel to the U.S. House. He also has worked in the Justice Department.

The incoming attorney general said he met the mayor-elect for the first time "about two weeks ago" and that he has yet to meet his predecessor, Mr. Nickles.

"I have not [met Mr. Nickles], but it's one of the first things I'm going to do," said Mr. Nathan, a member of the University of the District of Columbia Law Foundation.

Mr. Nathan, who has lived in the city for 35 years, also said he isn't interested in running for attorney general, which becomes an elected post in the next national midterm elections.

"I will not be a candidate in 2014," he said.

The mayor-elect also announced he was re-establishing the post of deputy mayor for public safety and justice, a position that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty abolished when he took office. Mr. Gray named to the post Paul A. Quander Jr., executive director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

As deputy mayor for public safety and justice, Mr. Quander will be responsible for aligning local and federal policies to "help eliminate the conditions that breed crime and threaten public safety," Mr. Gray said.

A George W. Bush appointee to the federal agency that oversees people on parole and probation, Mr. Quander also has worked for the city as director of the health care services for D.C. and federal public-safety officers.

Mr. Quander, a member of one of the nation's oldest and most eminent black families, has "excellent credentials and credibility across the criminal justice system," said a prominent Washington defense lawyer who asked not be named. "Paul has gravitas, good relations and good will with the prison system, law enforcers and the defense community. He will be Gray's eyes and ears."