The chairman of the D.C. Council’s public safety committee on Thursday questioned the city fire chief’s ability to run the department and told him that his job is on the line.
During a contentious five-hour hearing, council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) called Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe’s answers vague as the panel inquired about embarrassing failures involving faulty fleet data and slow ambulance response times.
Wells also asked whether Ellerbe’s office had been truthful when reporting the state of fleet readiness last month, and he warned the chief, “For any information coming forward, you have to put your job behind it.”
The hearing quickly became an inquiry into the chief’s performance, and Wells said, “There’s not much slack.”
Ellerbe, who spent 21/2 hours defending his leadership but repeatedly faltered in his answers, unable to state unequivocally that he had enough paramedics or even whether he had visited the 911 center recently. He often turned for help to a deputy mayor who sat beside him at the witness table, once drawing an objection from Wells, who demanded that the chief, not his boss, speak up.