Acting Appointments Fill Leadership for D.C. Fire; 7 of 15 Top Officials Temporary

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 29, 2005 | Go to article overview

Acting Appointments Fill Leadership for D.C. Fire; 7 of 15 Top Officials Temporary


Byline: Matthew Cella, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The D.C. fire department is facing a leadership vacuum, with nearly half of its most-senior uniformed positions being filled by officers serving in an acting capacity.

Both of the department's assistant chief positions, which are second only to that of fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson's, are filled by acting officers. Five of the 12 deputy chief positions, which rank under the assistant chiefs, are filled by officers who are either acting or are temporarily detailed to their posts.

Firefighters have complained about the lack of stability and experience among their leadership as they maintain a high level of alert and activity in a post-September 11 environment."The problem that you have is that you have no consistency in these positions," said Lt. Ray Sneed, president of the D.C. Firefighters Association. "In an agency this size, you need consistency, and people should be promoted to fill those positions."

In addition, next year's mayoral election could ring in a new administration - with a new fire chief.

Some firefighters, citing Chief Thompson's service as an assistant chief, have expressed concern that in-house candidates who would qualify for the top job would be passed over because lesser-ranking officers are rotating through acting positions in senior management.

City personnel policies allow career service employees to serve in an acting capacity for no more than 120 days. Two of the acting deputies have been in their positions for 104 days.

However, Chief Thompson said the department's legal counsel, Teresa Cusick, advised him that those policies do not apply to the fire department.

"That's my style of management, and it works. I must have that kind of latitude," said Chief Thompson, adding that he is using the acting promotions to train and evaluate his personnel.

Chapter 8 of the District Personnel Manual spells out hiring and promotion rules for all career service workers. Employees cannot serve in an acting capacity for more than 120 days, and employers cannot use temporary promotions for training or evaluating workers.

These rules apply to the uniformed officers of the police and fire departments unless they conflict with the D.C. Code's policies for uniformed officers. The D.C. Code, however, does not provide rules for temporary - or acting - promotions.

It would appear that the fire department is subject to the personnel manual's rules for temporary promotions, but the D.C. Office of Personnel was unable to provide a clarifying opinion on the matter. …

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