By DAVE STATTER
It is a fact of life for a modern fire chief that you or your department will get sued. I have covered many lawsuits against the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department and its leaders in my almost 30 years of reporting on the department. What I have rarely seen are the inner workings of one of these lawsuits. That changed today when the whistleblower protection organization, Government Accountability Project (GAP). released a series of clips from the deposition of Chief Dennis Rubin in early October. It is in connection with a lawsuit filed by the former general counsel for the DC Fire & EMS Department, Theresa Cusick.
We need to point out that these clips are long segments from the deposition and not the entire session with Chief Rubin. We also do not have the depositions from the other people involved in this case. The language on these videos can be quite graphic.
Cusick says she was transferred out of the agency after telling Chief Dennis Rubin about a cover up involving one of his top aides. Theresa Cusick spent nine years as the departments lawyer and was moved out of her job three months after Rubins arrival in April of 2007.
In the lawsuit and in an interview with STATter911.com, Cusick claims she attempted to inform Chief Rubin that Assistant Chief Brian Lee had interfered with an investigation of a cheating allegation involving a fire investigator. Cusick says that same investigator was being tapped to handle the departments internal affairs investigations under the direction of Chief Lee. According to Cusick she first approached this issue with Chief Lee when he was the interim chief of the department before Rubins arrival.
In the video deposition clips, Chief Rubin claims he got rid of Cusick because of a confrontation they had. Rubin describes Cusick as giving him an expletive filled description of problems she was having with his three assistant chiefs. Cusick denies such a confrontation occurred.
Assistant Chief Larry Schultz, who is named in the lawsuit, told us the department can t talk about the lawsuit involving Cusick because it is a personnel matter. Cusick was originally transferred out of the fire department and to the Office of the Attorney General. Cusick was later forced to take a lower paying job with the city, where she currently works.
Cusick and her attorney, Richard Condit, claim the problems extend beyond this case. GAP is handling or consulting on other lawsuits and claims from department employees who were dismissed or disciplined.
While not addressing the lawsuits, but speaking in general, Chief Schultz tells STATter911.com, This is a clear and formulated attack by four or five people to railroad, (and) to change the focus of all the positive things that have gone on here since Chief Rubins arrival.
Schultz points out, that in making changes, they have had to deal with a small number of employees who were taking taxpayers money and not performing. Schultz cites a survey showing a 94-percent satisfaction rate with the job the department is doing under the administration of Chief Rubin and Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Cusick believes Chief Rubin does not like dissenting opinions, is dismissive of women and calls him an absentee chief who is on the road.
Schultz says he probably challenges the chief more than anyone else the department. According to Schultz, One thing he certainly does is take that type of criticism and other things very, very, well. Hes a very humble person. Schultz believes there is no one in the department more concerned about diversity issues than Chief Rubin.
STATter911.com asked Chief Rubin about his travel schedule in October after a sprinkler demonstration injured a firefighter. The chief bristled at the idea his speaking engagements have anything to with problems in the department.
On this topic Assistant Chief Schultz said, I think he is like me, we get opportunities since the department is going so successfully now, to go out and brag about our department. Ninety-nine percent of the time hes here at 6:00 in the morning and he goes home at 7:00 at night only to eat dinner and then spend the rest of the night at every ANC (Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings) around the city.