D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said he will not dismiss Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson over his department's failures in responding to a fatal attack on New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum in January.
"The chief is here to stay," Mr. Williams said at a hastily arranged morning press conference. "I don't know what the chief's retirement plans are, but we've got a problem right now. We need to fix it right now, and the best way to fix it right now is to keep in place the leadership of the department in terms of the chief."
Mr. Williams, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, said he was "thoroughly appalled" by how city employees handled the case, but he continues to have "faith in the chief."
The mayor said Chief Thompson was "misled" by his subordinates, citing a report by the Office of the Inspector General that excoriated the fire department's handling of the Rosenbaum case.
"There is a clear discrepancy between the report the chief provided and the report of the IG, " Mr. Williams said. "I believe that the chief was misled, that people misrepresented to him the exact state of affairs as related to this and to a number of surrounding issues, and he's taken action accordingly."
Council member Kathy Patterson, a Ward 3 Democrat who is running for council chairman, said she wants to see how the mayor is going to act on that assertion.
"If the chief claims he was misled, I want to know who did the misleading and what's happening to them," Mrs. Patterson said.
Ed Reiskin, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said he expects a separate personnel review of department workers involved in the Rosenbaum case to be completed by late next week.
Two mayoral candidates who had called for Chief Thompson's resignation said yesterday they did not agree with the mayor's decision.
"I stand by my statement that the chief should be fired," said council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat. "There must be accountability at the highest level. If the mayor won't fire him, I call on Chief Thompson to resign to restore public confidence in our emergency medical services."
Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said the mayor's decision was "regrettable" and the chief will not have a job under a Fenty administration.
"It doesn't enforce the accountability that the people of the District of Columbia expect when you have a department that's being mismanaged," he said. "We'll definitely replace Chief Thompson, no question about it."
Chief Thompson yesterday said he will continue in the job. "I serve the pleasure of the mayor, whoever the mayor may be," he said. "I'm going to finish my job I've been tasked to do."
Mr. Rosenbaum was beaten and robbed Jan. 6 in Northwest and died two days later.
According to the 90-page inspector general's report released last week, medical personnel incorrectly assessed Mr. Rosenbaum's condition, failed to adequately care for his injuries and got lost while taking him to a hospital that was not the nearest to the scene of the incident.
The inspector general's report led to the disciplining of two emergency medical service (EMS) supervisors and the beginning of termination proceedings against the emergency medical technician who was driving the ambulance that responded to the scene.
Meanwhile, an attorney for the Rosenbaum family said he has filed a formal claim letter against the District. The claim letter, which is a legal prerequisite before filing a lawsuit, must be filed within six months of the incident.
"The Rosenbaum family has filed a notice of their intent to pursue legal claims against the District and against agencies of the city," attorney Patrick M. Regan said.
Mr. Regan said the claim is for "in excess of $10 million."