D.C. Deputy Fire Chief Now in Florida Kept on Books, Burned Firefighter Not

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Since 1982 Deputy Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has been an employee of the DC Fire & EMS Department and he is still officially on the job. Since July, Ellerbe has also been the chief of the Sarasota County fire department in Florida. Ellerbe hasn't split himself in two. He just doesn't show up for work or get paid in the Nation's Capital.

DC Fire & EMS Department spokesman Pete Piringer confirms that Chief Dennis Rubin has placed Ellerbe on leave without pay.

That status is anything but a punishment. According to The Washington Times, by being allowed to remain on the department's rolls until his 50th birthday in April, Ellerbe will get as much as an additional $600,000 in retirement pay.

DC City Council Public Safety and Judiciary Chairman Phil Mendelson thinks the arrangement sends the wrong message to the rank and file who are not allowed these special perks. Mendelson says, "It smacks of favoritism."

While a slightly different set of circumstances, the City was unable to accommodate Firefighter Joe Morgan who was forced to retire after being critically burned in a 1999 fire. Firefighters lobbied unsuccessfully to keep Morgan employed in an effort help maximize his retirement benefits. "He ended up losing his job, which was wrong," according to Mendelson.

9NEWS NOW first learned this might be an issue in June, a few days before Ellerbe was announced as the new chief in Sarasota County. At the time we asked DC fire officials if any special arrangements would be made to help Kenneth Ellerbe maximize his benefits. A spokesman told us the answer from Chief Rubin was an emphatic "no."

Chief Rubin, on an unrelated visit to 9NEWS NOW on Tuesday, left it to spokesman Piringer to answer questions about the incident. Piringer indicated the best answers would come from the DC Department of Human Resources.

A spokesman at the Department of Human Resources, Andrew Gerst, would not respond to questions and asked us to supply a Freedom of Information Act request.