D.C. Fire Chief Deposition Video Showcases Questionable Statements, Behavior

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Dylan Blaylock, GAP Communications Dir.
202.457.0034, ext. 137,
dylanb@whistleblower.org

Richard Condit, Senior Counsel
202.457.0034 ext. 142
richardc@whistleblower.org

Karen Gray, General Counsel
202.457.0034, ext. 122
kareng@whistleblower.org

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 - 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.

 

Video of the deposition is
available by clicking here or the picture above
.

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.org/2009/06/episode15/

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.

###

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. We pursue this mission through our Nuclear Safety, International Reform, Corporate Accountability, Food & Drug Safety, and Federal Employee/National Security programs. GAP is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization.

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