Dennis Rubin among candidates for Ala. fire chief

Before serving as the D.C. chief, Rubin was fire chief of Atlanta Fire and Rescue from 2003 to 2007; chief of the Norfolk, Va., fire department from 2001 to 2002, and chief in Dothan from 1996 to 2001.

The Decatur Daily

DECATUR, Ala. — The second round of advertising for the Decatur Fire and Rescue chief yielded 42 applicants, including the former chief of the Washington, D.C., and Atlanta fire departments.

For the second time, the only internal applicant was Division Chief Lorenzo Jackson.

Not on the list was Birmingham Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Floyd “Buddy” Wilks, a top candidate in the three previous efforts to come up with finalists. His interview was canceled twice before the city re-advertised the position in late February.

Wilks said the two canceled interviews and the second advertisement for the position “sure stretched it out.”

“I just didn’t feel it was the right move,” Wilks said. “Also, I’m in consideration for an assistant chief position here in Birmingham. The Decatur job was interesting, but over time things change. I’m looking at things in a different way.”

Among the applicants is Dennis Rubin, who served as fire and EMS chief of the Washington, D.C., fire department from 2007 through 2011. He resigned from the department when a new mayor was elected, and last year was embroiled in a public dispute with his successor.

Before serving as the D.C. chief, Rubin was fire chief of Atlanta Fire and Rescue from 2003 to 2007; chief of the Norfolk, Va., fire department from 2001 to 2002, and chief in Dothan from 1996 to 2001.

According to FireLaw Blog, published by attorney and former firefighter Curt Varone, Rubin is “the most-sued fire chief of this era.” In an August post, Varone said Rubin has won all 12 cases against him — including several race discrimination claims — that went to a judge or jury. Most stemmed from tenures in Atlanta and D.C.

In 2009, the firefighters union in D.C. demanded that city officials reprimand Rubin after a firefighter suffered facial burns during a fire-prevention demonstration. The union claimed safety standards were violated, according to The Washington Post. The fire was set to demonstrate the value of sprinkler systems in dormitory rooms, according to the Post, but the flames spread to the gear of three firefighters.

A year later, 30 firefighters filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Rubin claiming black employees received fewer promotions, harsher discipline and were exposed to a hostile work environment, according to the Post. A U.S. District Court ruled against the plaintiffs in 2011.

Since Rubin resigned from the D.C. position in January 2011, he has worked as a private consultant and publicized his book, “DC Fire.”

Last year, Rubin applied for positions as superintendent of the New Orleans Fire Department and chief of the Gilbert, Ariz., fire department.

Rubin did not respond to The Daily’s efforts to contact him Friday.

Another high-profile applicant is Stephen Dean, who was chief of the Mobile Fire and Rescue Department until his October retirement. Shortly before his retirement, a new Mobile mayor announced he would appoint a public safety executive director instead of a fire chief. Dean had been in the department since 1975 and had been chief since 1999.

Dean was named president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association in 2012.

Personnel Director Ken Smith said he would use a different procedure in screening applicants than in the first effort, when all the applications were provided to the City Council.

“As I understand it, the council wants me and the mayor to prepare a short list,” Smith said. “It’s up to the council what they want to do with it.”

Smith said his goal was to limit interviews to three to five candidates.

Mayor Don Kyle and Council President Gary Hammon have said they want to hire someone from outside the department, which would rule out Jackson.

Councilman Billy Jackson will not participate in the selection process because Lorenzo Jackson is his brother.

Copyright 2014 The Decatur Daily
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
All Rights Reserved

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