DC Paramedic Darlene Nelson was cleared of negligence from an ambulance assigned to protect President Obama running out of gas in 2013. On the heels of that incident, two DC ambulances caught fire while in service. The plethora of issues in 2013 shined a light on DC FEMS struggles to sustain service despite leadership claims that personnel were sabotaging the equipment.
He overturned a 120-hour suspension, ordered back pay and chastised the District for failing to fix faulty gas gauges on several ambulances. The judge said that the District was negligent, not Nelson, and chided “embarrassed management” for shifting the blame for its failures onto an employee during a period of negative news coverage.
Nelson, who is vice president of Local 3721 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents District paramedics, said she was “smeared” by the former administration.
“The judge found that the department tried to blame me for a systemic problem,” Nelson said. Her partner that day also was suspended, but she accepted her punishment and testified against Nelson at her disciplinary hearing. Of the charges, Nelson, said, “the chief got embarrassed, and it became a blame game…..”
In an effort to contain news of the service issues DC FEMS issued a draconian Social Media Policy in 2014. Then DC FEMS Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe finally stepped down on July 2, 2014 ending a three-year period marred with personnel and equipment issues.
Current DC FEMS Chief Gregory M. Dean has acknowledged the issues in the past prior to his appointment and has been reported to be actively working to resolve them. While there has been progress, there seems to still be a lot more to do. One of the changes to improve service has been the use of private ambulances for low priority emergencies.