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D.C. Fire Chief Deposition Video Showcases Questionable Statements, Behavior
Chief Rubin’s Actions Toward former General Counsel Raise Concerns about Gender Bias; Calls Councilmember ‘Disrespectful’
WASHINGTON - December 3 - In early October, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) conducted and filmed a deposition of Washington, D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin in relation to the lawsuit of former Fire Department General Counsel Theresa Cusick. Chief Rubin's testimony about events as he sees them may be eye-opening to other D.C. government officials, the City Council and the public. For example, in his testimony, Chief Rubin refers to the actions of Councilmember Phil Mendelson as "disrespectful," voices displeasure at "a woman barking at me," and as a firefighter and officer with nearly 40 years experience, claims to be offended by profanities he alleges Cusick used.
Theresa Cusick was forced out of her position as General Counsel by Chief Rubin after speaking out about an Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation of another D.C. fire official. GAP currently represents or is involved with the cases of multiple firefighter whistleblowers who have alleged misconduct by Rubin and other fire officials. Despite nine years with the D.C. Fire Department, Cusick was transferred by Chief Rubin only two months into his administration.
To watch a version with Chief Rubin's obscenities bleeped out, click here.
Highlights of the video include:
- Chief Rubin's claims about threats made against him, as contradicted by a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Detective: In the deposition video, Chief Rubin claims that a former firefighter/whistleblower threatened him during a City Counsel meeting - a claim that wrongly prompted an investigation, at the behest of Fire Department officials, by the MPD. The detective in charge of the case found no evidence of any threats. This is reinforced by a video of the Council meeting in question, and the testimony of the detective.
- Chief Rubin's labeling of Councilmember Phil Mendelson's actions as "disrespectful": In response to these threats by the firefighter/whistleblower (which the MPD detective found nonexistent), Chief Rubin further retaliated against that person. Councilmember Phil Mendelson sent a letter of inquiry regarding these actions, asking Chief Rubin to explain himself. Mendelson stated that testimony and the manner in which one gives testimony should not be subject to punishment. Chief Rubin states in the deposition video that he will simply not respond to the letter, strongly stating that Mendelson's action of sending the letter was "disrespectful." Mendelson is Chairman of the Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, which oversees the Fire Department.
- Chief Rubin's problem with female employees: At one point of the deposition, Chief Rubin makes a questionable characterization of a conversation with GAP client Cusick, in which he described being "overwhelmed" that "this was a woman barking at me."
- Unnecessary and excessive use of profanity in the deposition by Chief Rubin.
- Chief Rubin's claims about meetings with GAP client Theresa Cusick, prior to her firing: Such claims are disputed by GAP, and disputed on the video by Cusick.
In regards to the "woman barking at me" comment, this is not the first time Rubin has fired a high-ranking woman within the fire department - traditionally a male-dominated profession. A few months ago, Chief Rubin fired Vanessa Coleman, a 19-year veteran of the force and Captain, who was steadily retaliated against since being singled out and made a scapegoat for an apartment fire last year that displaced 200 people. However, as public audio recordings from the fire department show, Coleman was clearly not at fault in any way for the fire or its spread. Coleman was fired on October 9 after refusing to sign a waiver claiming that a psychological exam she was being forced to take was voluntary.
GAP's television program, Whistle Where You
Work, recently devoted an entire episode to whistleblower and accountability
issues at the D.C. Fire Department. You can watch that episode online by
clicking here: http://www.whistleblowertv.
Chief Rubin has come under fire lately for several public mishaps, the most recent being a fire safety demonstration at Gallaudet University that went wrong when a plexiglass curtain melted and fell on firefighters, sending one firefighter to the hospital with burns on his hands and face. Rubin's comments after the event have infuriated the union that represents local firefighters, who have stated publicly that Mayor Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Council should reprimand Rubin for failing to follow multiple safety procedures while personally organizing the event.
Rubin also faced criticism earlier this year after the house of a well-known community leader and arts patron burned down when firefighters could not get an adequate amount of water from hydrants. Later, the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary concluded the water problem was due to a lack of preparation on the part of the Fire Department. And the puzzling donation of a fire truck and ambulance to a city in the Dominican Republic with which the District of Columbia had no official ties led to Chief Rubin's April testimony before the D.C. Public Safety and Judiciary Committee that the fire engine had approximately 197,000 miles on it and that both vehicles were of little to no value. Councilmember Mendelson later discovered that the actual mileage on the fire engine was only 55,290 miles.