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Most Sued Fire Chief Now 8-0 in Jury Trials

Fire Chief Dennis Rubin is one of the most forward thinking chiefs of this era (hey… you guys from DC and Atlanta… yeah you… put down those rocks… hear me out… you too Hookman). Dennis Rubin is also the most sued fire chief of this era… at least according to my database.

Going into today, Chief Rube’s record in jury trials was 7-0. Based on a jury verdict today in Ham et al v. City of Atlanta et al, he is now an amazing 8-0. That is an extraordinary record. Here is a press release … ok – a “blog release”… from Chief Rubin himself.

I would like to share some great news with you.  The three charges against me were denied by the 8 person jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.   Judge J. Owen Forrester presided over this case.  Judge Forrester is a Senior Judge of the United States District Court.  The case (Ham el al v. Atlanta & Dennis Rubin) claimed that I promoted black members based on their race and not on their merit or capabilities.  The abstract describing this case is on the internet.

For the record, this is the eighth time that I have been ordered to appear before a jury for some type for work related claims against me, both personally and professionally, during my tenure as a fire chief.  Thus far, I am 8 and 0, with all verdicts having been decided in my favor.  There is at least one more Atlanta case preparing to go to trial sometime in the future (it is almost 6 years post employment).  The number of DC trials waiting for me, in the wings, is anyone’s guess.  The next Atlanta case (Martin et al v. Atlanta & Dennis Rubin) is based on the complaint that I only promoted black members to the rank of battalion fire chief.  The actual record will reflect something different than what is written by the Martin complaint.

The DC cases I have where Chief Rubin is a named defendant are:

  • BURTON et al v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al      1:2010cv01750
  • EDWARDS v. RUBIN et al     1:2010cv01579
  • SULLIVAN v. FENTY et al      1:2010cv01395
  • EDWARDS v. RUBIN et al     1:2010cv00452
  • STEINBERG v. FENTY et al  1:2009cv01299
  • BOWYER et al v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al     1:2009cv00319
  • COLEMAN v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al  1:2009cv00050
  • SIMBA v. FENTY et al    1:2008cv01692
  • LINDSEY v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al   1:2007cv01939

There are a number of other DC cases where he will likely figure prominently, including:

  • Theresa Cusick v. District of Columbia
  • Brant M. Woodhouse v. District of Columbia Fire and EMS
  • Wesley Hamilton et al v. DC, DC Fire & EMS
  • Lawrence Clark v. DC Fire & EMS
  • Tarick Ali v. District of Columbia and DC Fire & EMS
  • Vanessa Coleman v. District of Columbia

Thinking about becoming a fire chief?

It would be easy to assume the problem here rests solely with Chief Rubin, but that would be a gross oversimplification of the problem.  Fire chiefs have to make decisions and when people don’t like those decisions fire chiefs get sued. Chief Rubin’s predecessors and his successors have been sued. The chiefs of all major fire departments get sued and get sued regularly.

The reality is that leadership is dangerous business… not dangerous in the physical sense that firefighters typically encounter – but dangerous in terms of putting yourself out there to become a target for those unhappy with your decisions. The name calling, the cowardly internet character assasinations… those are just annoyances… but the law suits are costly, emotionally and financially, to fire chiefs and their families.

Love him, hate him, you have to admit it takes courage to stand in there and take the kind of abuse that goes along with being the fire chief of a major city like Atlanta or DC these days. Yes it is different from the courage it takes to make a tight hallway or get a difficult roof – but courage is courage. I tip my hat to Chief Rubin and congratulate him on his 8-0 record.

Here is the appellate decision in the Ham case that paved the way to the jury trial. Ham v Atlanta

Comments - Add Yours

  • Chip Comstock

    Great column. And on a side note this column only reiterates Chief Rubins call for a legal defense fund/insurance for chief officers. Due to some other recent developments that highlight the risks associated with leadership-including false accusations by employers I am hopeful that the IAFC (or it VCOS Section) may take up this issue in 2013.

  • EH

    There is no loyalty anymore. This is like a spoiled toddler who doesn’t Get their way then blame the parents. I think people need to take ownership for their actions

    • Curt Varone

      EH – you mean like this kind of reasoning:

      I didn’t do it…

      But if you can prove I did it, then it was your fault that I did it…

      And if you can prove I did it and it was not your fault, then you treated me unfairly when you punished me because of my race, gender, age, disability, political beliefs, or religion OR you violated my civil rights, denied me due process, or you failed to comply with civil service/collective bargaining requirements…


    Curt….just curious to know before you write an article about someone like Dennis Rubin, do you look into his history or actual court dockets to verify his story…..With that said, could you list the 7 jury trials prior to the Ham case in which those jurors ruled in Rubin’s favor…And I’m not talking about cases that were dismissed, appealed or settled…I’m talking about actual jury trials that rendered a verdict in favor of Rubin…..or did you just include in this article that Rubin was 7-0, because that’s what he told you???…


    BTW…racial discrimination cases are quite hard to prove and in the case of Ham v City of Atlanta/Rubin, the jury found the plaintiff’s were denied a promotion, but since plaintiff’s failed to prove race was a factor in being denied a promotion, the jury rendered their decision in favor of the City of Atlanta/Rubin…..


    They’re are also 3 other cases which were settled out of court (that I’ve found/researched)…

    Davis v City of Atlanta/Rubin

    Sullivan v Fenty/Rubin & his 2 Asst.Chiefs (Violations of 1st Amendment & Violation of the DC Whistleblower Act)…settled out of court by the ACLU & Art Spitzer…thank you Art….

    And 1 case in DC Superior Court…

    You shed light on only one side of Rubin, when in fact they’re are many….You make him look good by just saying he’s 8-0 in jury trials, but don’t detail the other 7 nor list them and what they were for….I’m sure being a Fire Chief comes with much scrutiny and occasionally you find yourself as a defendant in a court of law….However, Rubin has been in court numerous times and will probably spend the next 5-10 years in court….just because one case clears his name or cleared because he a plaintiff failed to properly serve him and its dismissed, does not and should not put him on a pedestal and that every plaintiff is crying afoul….definitely not this case with my civil suit in the US District Court of DC….

    Rubin seems to have a certain behavior that’s hidden whenever the camera isn’t on him and that could be more reflected than on this video….well, the camera is actually on him here, but there’s no audience…

    Or how about this April 9th tweet from Rubin’s Twitter account…

    Speaking of the soon to be published DCFD case study book, the case against me by Bowyer et al was dismissed today in US District Court

    Dismissed???…no sir..this case is quite pending….Curt…is lying publicly on a popular social media site the charateristics of the most forward thinking Chief of this era????…fill me in more on your perception of how you came to believe that….funny stuff right there…


    or how about this lovely tweet on July 5th from Rubin….. Just think about it …Sullivan (Bag of Shit) gets a few hundred thousand to return to work and Cadillac (a true DCFD hero gets suspended).?


    And ill keep throwing rocks, as you referred me as dping, as long as this phony continues to lie about and anything else he publicly tslks your opinion, if he’s the most forward thinking chief of this era, why hasn’t any department hired him to lead them to the promised land….ask him how the Reading, Pa job interview went that a retired DCFD Lieutenant was appointed too….

  • Curt Varone

    One of the realities of life that has become abundantly apparent to me in both my law practice and my fire service career – is the prevalence of mental illness in society today. It is sad and shocking.

    In some cases it seems to manifests itself in frivolous lawsuits filed by delusional serial litigators… modern day Don Quixotes who ernestly believe they alone see the real truth.

    It also seems to manifest itself as folks who spend their days online ruthlessly assassinating the character of others. It is so so sad.


    Curt….so in other words, you’re basically telling me, you cannot provide me anwers to back up your story nor dispute the factual truth that Ive put in front of you ?

    Its pretty obvious that your story here has some behind the scenes favortism towards the person you wrote about, which couldn’t be more evident in the way you responded to my comments.

    So Curt..if a person such as myself exposes a public figure suchbas Rubin and posts comments that are truthful on various social media sites, they’re mentally dillusional ? Hey Curt, as long as the 1st Amendment exists and I have a computer, ill continue to post my opinions and TRUTH about people like Rubin.

    Seeing that your a lawyer and this is your website, I was expecting a more intellectual response from you regarding the facts I laid in front of you, but its apparent you cannot provide one..BTW…the ACLU who represented me in my case against Rubin, does not discriminate against who they support or represent…..People don’t settle out of court and return to the same job they were wrongfully terminated from for absolutely no reason….If Rubin was right in terminating me, the Attorney Generals Office in DC would have put on their case and not entertained a settlement…


    And ill await patiently while you post the 7 jury trials that Rubin was 7-0 in prior to the Ham et al v City of Atlanta/Rubin that made him 8-0… do have them don’t you Curt ?

  • Curt Varone

    Well – since you brought up the truth – perhaps its time to face the truth yourself.

    First, you cannot possibly be happy or content. Maybe I am wrong, but if not, do yourself and your family a favor and get the help you need.

    Second – I have a 1st Amendment Right and trust me – I will fully exercise my right as I see fit. My hands are not tied like a fire chief is. I can respond to your attacks and I will. That includes exposing self-appointed do-gooders who viciously attack fire chiefs out of a delusional belief they are somehow making the world a better place.

    Third, Fire chiefs in this country are under attack from all sorts of characters who earnestly believe they are doing the world a favor. They villianize the chief and obsess about ways to hurt him. The extent of the problem leads me to wonder why any sane person want to be a fire chief and expose themselves to the like of the relentless personal attacks such as you have brought, and continue to bring, upon past and present DC fire chiefs.

    You are not alone – there are folks all across the country who view themselves in a some sort of heroic role of exposing wrong doing – except their attacks have little to do with wrongdoing.

    Trust me – I am all for exposing wrong doing – when and where it exists. But exposing wrongdoing should be an objective exercise based upon facts. Someone who has a personal bias or animosity toward the target cannot really be objective, wouldn’t you agree? An objective analysis of possible wrongdoing does not require name calling or personal attacks. In fact, personal attacks and name calling merely reflect the fact that the “truth seeker” has a pre-existing bias – which inherently creates an inability to be objective. A case of resorting to personal attacks: You immediately attacked me: “I was expecting a more intellectual response from you regarding the facts I laid in front of you, but its apparent you cannot provide one”. So now am I one of your villains?

    Far from exposing wrongdoing – all the “personal attackers” do is take a deeply seated hatred for the chief and find decisions that the chief has made and twist them to meet a predetermined conclusion that he is somehow corrupt, incompetent, biased, or somehow wrong.

    That is hardly being “truthful”… Who among us is so “perfect” in everything we do that someone cannot second guess our decisions and twist them to suit the point they are trying to make. Given that most fire chiefs cannot respond to the personal attacks – I think these kinds of attacks are cowardly. It is throwing stones at a defenseless person. It is being a bully – picking on a person who cannot really defend themselves because they cannot respond.

    Hookman, I do not expect you to understand what I am saying – because you no doubt perceive yourself as a victim, not a bully. Hopefully others reading this can understand what I am saying. Enough is enough. No one likes a bully – even an internet bully.


    Curt…I don’t find anywhere in your comments where you’ve told me the truth, however, you’ve given me your opinion and its hardly close to the truth…..I would expect more from someone who has a law degree, but you come off more as an internet psychologist more than anything..

    As far as my life and family are concerned, that’s my business and none of yours…However, if you’re so concerned about it, I’ll let you know while I’m on my 3 days off, I’ve played 18 holes everyday, ate an abundance of seafood, basked in the sunlight by the pool and today will be no different….Going to the Japanese Steakhouse for Sushi, then back to the golf course for a 3rd consecutive day of golf with my son…..I’m pretty content with that and I do appreciate your adivice, because yesterday I hooked 2 of my tee shots, therefore, I’m going to ask the PGA pro at my course for some help to see if my stance is wrong…..

    You may think that what I’m posting are viscious attacks against you or towards Rubin, but in reality I’m expressing my opinions about an individual who is less than truthful and its quite obvious that neither Dennis Rubin nor yourself can dispute what I say…

    Nowhere in my comments do I say I’m a self appointed do gooder, but its your opinion that if someone like me puts stuff out there on a blog or for instance your blog and the questions I direct towards you can’t be answered, then a person like myself has to be delusional???…I wouldn’t say my goal is to make the world a better place, but the less Dennis Rubin’s there are in the fire service, the better that agency will be…Why?..they won’t have a Fire Chief that travels around the country speaking and talking about his leadership program that he couldn’t implement in DC, make documentary’s or short films about incidents in the District of Columbia using taxpayers dollars for his personal lectures, when he should of been at work 90-95% percent of the time devoting his time to the members, citizens and visitors of DC. However, this was not the case and his contract (which I can provide) did not allow him to travel and speak around the country as frequently as he did nor did it allow him to use his title for personal gain…Do you really believe his speaking was done for free?…His travels were well documented…trust me….nobody wants a leader who disrespects a budget nor do they want the lawsuits that come with a guy like Dennis Rubin…..

    So if what I comment about are considered to be viscious attacks, then prove me wrong and ill stop….Its not my goal or mission to follow Rubin or anyone else, as people like Rubin openly post things to social media sites that I happen to follow and if I find that something said is so far from the truth, I can assure you I will express my cares and concerns…

    I realize that being a Fire Chief is subject to much scruting, especially when internet forums exists, but since I’m not considered an anonymous poster, I stand by what I say and would openly say the same in person…

    Exposing wrongdoing should be an objective exercise based upon facts….Ok, I agree…Now dispute my facts…No animosity here Curt, but have you looked at Dennis Rubin’s twitter account and the language he uses towards myself…Personal attacks….I’ve never set out to comment on anything about a person and make it seem personal, as I can distinguish between making a comment or stating a fact about an individuals title versus them as a person…Its not my place to judge a person away from his workplace, but I can wholeheartedly express my opinions (with or without facts)about a public figure when it pertains to his job title….

    It appears to me that I’m getting under your skin, because you’ve yet to dispute anything I’ve said with “facts”, but turned what I said into a session of Dr Phil….Hatred…don’t have hate for anyone in this world including Dennis Rubin…maybe I’m more vocal and upfront then most, but hate is word not in my vocabulary….Victim I am not…Winner I am….It seems in your opinion I’m an internet bully because people like yourself can’t follow up with legitimate answers to what I comment about, so I must be an internet bully….Have you ever engaged in a conversation without showing bias towards the person who’s the topic of conversation???…I understand your a fire chief and your standing up for chiefs in general (which I don’t disagree), but try focusing on what I’m talking about and prove me wrong…

    I see clearly what your saying and its your right to express your interpretation of how I see things….With that said, can you provide like you have with the other cases you listed, the other 7 cases which ruled in Dennis Rubin’s favor prior to the Ham verdict that made Rubin 7-0 in jury trials???…you do have them right Curt..

  • Curt Varone


    This is not per se about you – this is about a societal problem: chiefs under attack. perhaps it is even larger – leaders under attack. No one thinks they should be responsible for their behavior and everyone can rationalize why what they do is OK. Bullies rationalize their bullying … they can convince themselves that they are doing the world a favor or that the victim deserves being bullied. I’ll let the folks out there who are following draw their own conclusions. There is a line between diligently pursuing the truth and being a bully.

    It is not my job to refute the various points you make. You believe what you say is true. I don’t doubt that. Even if I was inclined to try to disprove the numerous things you have written about Chief Rubin or any other DC Chief – no amount of proof I could provide would be enough for you – there will always be some other issue, some other twist, some other angle… like the 9-11 Conspiracy folks. There will always be something else… to prove you are right or at least leave the question open.

    You say you are a happy and productive member of society – you eat well and play golf often. That is awesome. All I can say is I know many folks who are suffering and who use frivolous lawsuits and internet attacks as some pathetic form of therapy to make them feel better. Good not know you are not one of them.

    As for the 7 cases which you have accused me of not having, covering up, etc., etc. here they are. I have absolutely no doubt now that instead of saying – “Oh, gee, he provided some real facts” you instead will rip them apart not out of a search for the truth – but because they do not align with your beliefs. Happy ripping!!!! No amount of proof will convince the conspiracy theorists that 9-11 was anything but a fraud… or that the moon landing ever occurred… etc. etc. No amount of proof will likely satisfy you either.
    1. Philip Morris v. Dothan
    2. Blackmon v. Dothan
    3. Eva Matthews v. Dothan
    4. Buford v. Atlanta
    5. Gerard Rioux v. Atlanta
    6. Porter v. District of Columbia
    7. Shawn Manns v. Atlanta

  • John K. Murphy


    It is hard to believe that we enter an era that Fire Chief’s are regularly sued for lots of different reasons some malicious, some frivolous and some that have merit. Chief Rubin is not the only Fire Chief ever sued nor will he be the last. He certainly holds the record for the Chief most sued – which is a dubious record to possess.

    In today’s fire service there are as many fire chiefs as there are firefighters, as each of the firefighters believes that they can do a better job than the fire chief; many believe that their rights have been infringed upon and many times firefighters believe the Chief is an idiot. That being rarely the case, fire chiefs are in tough spots leading a group of INDIVIDUALS with different backgrounds, concepts, cultures and beliefs that at times creates difficulty for the leadership of the organization. It appears that the only time these INDIVIDUALS come together and form the team is at the scene of a fire or rescue emergency. During the times of inactivity, each firefighter has the time to dissect each and every nuance of the department’s leadership team and those decisions focusing mostly on the fire chief.

    We do not generally see this type of litigation in the corporate world as employment is generally based on production and there is not a lot of down time to litigate real or imagined slights against employees unless there are true violations of those protected rights and protected classes. True, there are bad bosses or those that violate the rights of employees, but it appears that firefighters have become more likely to sue (and finding lawyers to support their cause) than ever before.

    In my long career in the fire service, I would never imagine suing my Chief as there is a life outside the fire service and if the Chief is having a bad day and I become the brunt of the issue, I have not, nor would I ever sue the fire chief. At the end of the shift, I go home and engage in the activities that bring me pleasure and not have some ax hanging over my head in the form of a lawsuit which is disruptive to not only the fire department but my family as well.

    I am not pro or con for this particular fire chief, but it seems as though the rhetoric presented today would indicate some bad past experience between the fire chief and the writer, Hookman; that has somehow prejudiced the opinion of the writer. I am not sure of the basis of that experience, but based on the readings in this stream there is a lot of vitriol and I am not sure that your victory, if you are successful in your current litigation, will be all that satisfying. What it means that you were right and he was wrong or visa versa. So what?

    Dissecting each case for the fact finder would take more than this column would allow and time for me to research. Suffice it to say, the win loss record (if one were counting) favors the ability of Chief Rubin to lead his management team, the ability to make decisions for the fire department, making tough choices required in his leadership position and be right every time – so far. Coupled with a competent legal team presenting good facts and case law they have prevailed in protecting the rights of the Fire Chief to manage his department(s). Is the guy an ass? Who cares as long as there is competent leadership?

    So what is the bottom line, there are attorneys on both side of any issue: the win loss record for this fire chief indicates that the courts, as the trier of facts, have decided in favor of the Fire Chief and against the plaintiff at least 8 times and counting. Is there the potential that the Chief may loose the next round in a different court? Possibly but the record so far favors the Chief and affirms that during the time of his leadership he was capable, competent and correct in his decisions. Will there continue to be litigation against this Chief? The answer is yes, but as the record demonstrates so far, every aggrieved party that has real or imagined complaints against this fire chief has lost or will probably loose at a great cost to them financially and emotionally. Unless you have deep pockets I say good luck on these issues.

  • Brad

    I would think that Hookman should seriously consider mental health counseling. Who actually dedicates his life to intentionally ruining the life of another. If I was involved, I would have the police investigate Hookmans actions throughout the past years. Nothing short of threats of violence and attacks without merit. Fortunately for him it seems he could use the insanity defense!

    Curt I wouldn’t continue to argue with a crazed lunatic who has nothing else in his life. He has the time to throw attacks 24/7. He obviously has serious issues which need professional help. If I was in Chief Rubin’s position I would turn to the police. He has unquestionably crossed the line. Do not give him a forum for his crazed thoughts. Delete his posts. Why give this guy another bite at the apple?

    Just some quick thoughts. Again if I was involved, he would be in jail by now

    • Brad too


      Your comment has compelled me to chime in. Chris Sullivan’s entire life depends on ruining other people’s lives. No sane person would dedicate their entire being to pointlessly prosecute another being, unless they were mentally ill… as is the case with Sullivan. A worthless worker who knows damn well that he was wrong in his doings and knew that his only way to go about life is to sue the pants off other people. Frivolous law suits? Yes. Look at his track record. Sullivan is a disgrace to the Fire Department and to the uniform.


    Really Brad…I love followers like you in the fire service….the forum is now yours my friend…..Explain in “FACTUAL” detail how my actions over the years were deemed in your eyes, even close to being considered threats of violence.

    Please list all court records and charges against me where I’ve been charged or accused of threatening Chief Rubin.

    Please list ALL threats and attacks that “I” have made over the past years.

    Oh and when your done listing all the alleged acts of violence and attacks against Dennis Rubin, then explain to ALL, why I would be in jail if YOU were involved.

    I’m guessing becaus you don’t care for what I post about Dennis Rubin, (which you would only know about if you FOLLOWED ME) or maybe your a friend of his or admire him at the very least or you believe everything he posts about on his Twitter accout, that I must be a crazed lunatic….I suggest you stop playing Matlock and do some research about Rubin, because as long as Rubin exists and posts untruthful statements about myself or about cases that were dismissed against him that weren’t, I will continue to blog, comment and give my opinion about him and every other thing going on in the world today….And if you ask why I do this…ITS BECAUSE I CAN!!!….Have a great day Brad…


    Curt….I don’t disagree with your point that Fire Chiefs are under attack, because I don’t have firsthand knowledge that its become an epidemic…However, I realize that in my case and many other cases, the Fire Chief has the last say when discipline occurs and when a penalty is reccomended or in my case, terminaton was the reccomendation and the Fire Chief has the last say and reccomends termination, then he or she becomes involved,whether they want to be or not….If an unfair and unjust decision was made against employee, then rest assured, the Fire Chief will not only be named in a civil complaint, but will be held accountable for his decision as well.

    Its not everyday that an employee is terminated or disciplined, so when the paperwork comes to say Dennis Rubin’s desk to either agree with proposed penalty or believes penalty should be reduced or isn’t fair, then the Fire Chief should look over ALL documents to make sure employee was treated fairly according to the rules and regulations of the department, so that HE DOESN’T wind up being named a defendant in a civil suit for wrongful termination or violations of the law.

    I disagree with you Curt that if you presented me with facts to dispute what I’ve said or written about, that I would argue your wrong or find another angle or twist what you’ve pointed out to me. Believe it or not, I can actually carry a conversation and though I’m hard headed at times, I am capable of agreeing with a person such as yourself or admitting that I’ve made a mistake….

    In my case, I admitted to doing things wrong at the company level after my situation surfaced, however, when things got to the administration level (which it should have never gotten too), this is when things escalated to a point in Rubin’s Administration, that his 2 Assistant Fire Chiefs believed in a unique disciplinary system that was unlike the one in place or in our collective bargaining agreement. For the record, my civil complaint was not only against Rubin, but his 2 subordinate and inept Asst. Fire Chiefs.

    I can assure you my complaint in the US District Cour of DC was not frivolous nor was it it filed in hopes of a big pay day. The ACLU/Art Spitzer do not entertain supporting, representing or settling a case out of court on behalf of an internet bully who bring frivolous lawsuits against people for their own pathetic form of therapy, just to make them feel better….

    As for the 7 cases you listed, the 3 in Dothan are questionable as Rubin was a City Administrator there and the 3 individuals who named Rubin in their complaint, were not members of the Fire Department, but employees of the city.

    The remaining cases of which Rioux v. City of Atlanta & Rubin was dismissed, however, Rioux was added as a plaintiff to the pending case of Martin v. City of Atlanta & Rubin.

    I’ll give you Porter v. Rubin & Buford v. City of Atlanta & Rubin, because I could not find their cases anywhere, as well as Manns v. City of Atlanta & Rubin….See Curt, I can side or agree with you….Last…though the cases you mentioned which were cause for your article about Dennis Rubin, they show one side of him as a firechief, as sometimes he will be named in a lawsuit, whether or not he personally had anything to do with the complaint, because at the end of the day, he is the top dog…..However, not all civil complaints against him are frivolous and even Dennis Rubin has to look in the mirror and stop blaming everyone for why he’s in court all the time or that he’s named in several lawsuits…I agree that some could be redundant or frivolous, but not all…..

    As for my comments or posts about Rubin and whether you consider them to be one of an internet bully or not, than that is your opinion.

    • Curt Varone


      You keep referring to facts that I have to dispute – but I have no idea what “facts” you claim to have said that you think I am under some sort of an obligation to dispute. The things that concern me are:

      • Are you or are you not the guy responsible for producing the infamous “Condom Factory” video that demeaned and defamed Chief Rubin?
      • Did you post the following in another of my blogs: “I can speak firsthand of this, because I faced a trial board when former Chief Out Of Town aka Dennis Rubin was the Chief. While this clown was out using his title for personal gain, he let his AFC of Ops and the AFC of retaliation do the dirty work…If you weren’t one of the boys, you were going to be in trouble. The disparity of discipline was obvious, but these clowns rode off into the sunset…” – and isn’t it true that this is a relatively mild version of your Rubin rants?
      • Did you call Chief Rubin at 3:00 am recently?
      • Have the police ever questioned you because of the nasty things you have said on line?

      As for the cases that I listed – the list was provided to me by Chief Rubin. This is a blog – not the Washington Post or the NY Times. I do not have a staff to research the details of every story. If there are inaccuracies you can point out I would be happy to correct any incorrect or inaccurate statements. The man said he was 8-0 in jury trials. I know he’s been sued something like 30 times so 8 jury trials seems pretty plausible in my mind. If its 7 – Ok, we’ll fix it. If its 6 – we’ll fix it.

      You make a very good point when you say: “However, not all civil complaints against him are frivolous and even Dennis Rubin has to look in the mirror and stop blaming everyone for why he’s in court all the time or that he’s named in several lawsuits…I agree that some could be redundant or frivolous, but not all…..” That is called personal responsibility, plain and simple and it is sadly lacking in society today. However, in the history of mankind – people who try to implement change to the status quo– from Socrates to Jesus Christ – suffer the wrath of those who want things to remain as they are.

      Love him or hate him, Dennis Rubin is the kind of guy who has the courage to implement change despite the fact that the naysayers may want to nail him to a …. Ok, maybe that’s not a good metaphor but you get the point. Lawsuits are the way that the modern day naysayers attack the change agents in our society. It is almost a barometer of how much change a chief is trying to implement.

      And lastly, you know what – there’s nothing wrong with being hard headed and I appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation. I love to argue. It’s a family trait. If we can leave the rhetoric behind and speak man to man I’m sure we would agree on more things than we disagree on.


    One more thing Brad… it wrong of me or am I attacking Rubin’s great name by calling him out on the very same social media site he posts untruthful statements about himself to make himself look good…

    For Example….the tweet on his Twitter account where he said the case against him Bowyer v. Rubin was dismissed against him and I go look the case up because I can and find out that case is very much PENDING against him….Does this make ME out to ruin or destroy Rubin or does he do this to himself….Plenty of people disagree with the President and his lies by posting them to their facebook and twitter accounts, so is what I do any different..


    BTW Brad…the tone in which you write, is very Rubin like….


    Brad Rubin Im waiting… me the facts!!!!…..after all, this is Fire Law, not Brad’s Law, where name calling and false accusations get you 10-20 years…lol


    Curt….I understand where you coming from and no, you don’t have to dispute anything I say or that your obligated to do such….

    Now to answer your list of ?’s…..

    The only video I know of was about a guy named Chief Dirty Dennis….not sure how this hurt Dennis Rubin, unless his first name is actually Dirty and his last name is Dennis..

    Did I post that comment to one of your other blogs….yes I did….whether its your blog or another forum, it seeems that if you say something other than favorable, its considered a rant or as you said, a mild rant….. quite comftorable with my comments about Rubin, because i know more than the average Joe does about him….Sometimes the truth hurts people such as Rubin, who in my opinion is very arrogant and self centered….Afterall, didn’t Rubin provide this story to you and not the other way around….

    Did i wake Rubin up at 3am recently….No, but about 3 years ago I woke him up at the hotel he was staying at out in California to prove he’s not at work the 99% of the time his AFC/OPS told 9NEWS he is… was 6:30am my time when i called….hard to be at work in DC when your away speaking AGAIN!….btw…he’s grumpy at 330 in the morning….

    Last…..the police have NEVER questioned me for anything Ive ever said online about Rubin, however, some comments ive made that Rubin tried to twist around were subject to parts of my civil suit against him.

    People such as Dennis Rubin need to be mindful that he’s the public figure, not me. Public figures are subject to such things as, sattire, ridicule, comedy and public scrutiny whether it be on a blog such as yours or speaking through a bullhorn….he may not like what I say about him, but if anyone defames his name, its certainly not me…

    Curt…I too enjoy the conversation and whats even better about it is to get get different opinions and not necessarily ones that side with me….certain types of law really intrigue me…..I spent 3 months of my own time and research prior to filing my 18 page civil complaint….Family law as well, is something that more than interests me, as i represented myself a handful of times prior to receiving sole custody of my now 6 year old son… for one to say i spend my off days focused on Dennis Rubin couldn’t be farther from the truth, as I like to post my opinions to various other non fire department blogs and forums……i too believe that we could both agree on many things man to man….with that said and seeing your from Rhode Island, id assume your a Red Sox fan?

    • Brad too

      Chris Sullivan,

      I find it both bizzare and humorous that in your blind pursuit of truths on this blog, you, yourself manage to provide false statements about yourself. If Dennis Rubin deserves for the world to know about all of these so-called “untruthful statements about himself to make himself look good”, let’s talk about you.

      1. The Dirty Dennis video was initiated by YOU. I was in the room when you played me the video. Why? Because you are a bitter and angry person that is acting like a wounded animal. YOU made the video, YOU posted it on YouTube, YOU personally played it for me. That’s one lie down.

      2. Are you sure that the police did NOT question you? That is a second lie. You WERE questioned. Maybe nothing transpired out of it but you were questioned. All someone has to do is to Google “Hookman” or “Sullivan Rubin” and most of the content found focuses on your spiteful and hateful pointless persecution of Dennis Rubin. Aren’t you also the guy that took over his Twitter page with your comments to basically every Tweet? So is that public knowledge or a full time job for you to destroy lives? Or would you rather post comments how you would dedicate your life to destroying Dennis Rubin’s life in order to see him “eat out of a dog bowl”?

      3. Your great knowledge of Custody. Go ahead and be hard-headed but you have lied during every single trial, just like you lie elsewhere in your life. A battle that you win through cheating and lying does not make you a winner, it makes you a coward. Don’t you dare use a little boy in all of your frivolous complaints and in the hatred that you spew. Your first priority in life is to set a decent example, not to use all means possible to gain free Internet therapy. A lie is still a lie, even if you get away with it.

  • Curt Varone


    Thank you for the info. There definitely appears to be 2 sides to this saga.

    I am indeed a long suffering Red Sox fan (talk about being hard headed)…

    As for Chief Rubin being out of town a lot, I really do not see that as an issue. He can manage the department from where ever he is – so long as he has his attention focused on the department. He is a phone call, text message, or email away. Do you think the President has to be in the Whitehouse, or even in the US to effectively manage the country?

    I have known Chief Rubin for about 15 years – and to the extent an outsider from RI can understand the problems DCFD has had I was aware of that as well – and I thought he and his… how shall I say… lack of shyness – plus his unbounded energy and progressive pro-fire service approach would be just what DCFD needed. I have said on more than one occasion – if Dennis Rubin cannot fix the problems in DC, it is not fixable.

    Unfortunately the Rube is now gone and the problems in DC are not fixed. Maybe they are not fixable. Then again maybe I am wrong. I do root for the Red Sox you know. I am sure he made mistakes along the way but I think he did his best because that is the kind of person he is.

    I do not know much about your case and whether he handled it fairly or not. I know when someone treats another in a way that hurts – there’s a karma price to be paid. Thats a story for another blog.

    What I can tell you for sure is that many many many qualified firefighters I know who would make excellent fire chiefs would not even consider taking the DC job because of the personal attacks and lawsuits that inevitably accompany being the DC chief. Being a DC firefighter yourself I am sure you know lieutenants, captains, BCs and deputies who would make excellent fire chiefs – but they want no part of it.

    I see a similar phenomenon in other departments but no where is it as bad as DC.

    I do alot of work these days with fire chiefs under attack. Well intentioned folks – (possibly such as yourself but I will not “assume” too much) attack the chief over all sorts of issues. Many times the attacks come in the form of frivilous lawsuits, grievances, ethics complaints, etc. The chief spends so much time fighting these crazy battles that his focus is diverted from effecting positive change. To me that is a bigger concern than if a guy is a sought-after lecturer.

    The only ones who seem immune from these attacks are the chiefs who lack the drive and ability to effect change. They merely let the department go to hell, avoid controversies, smile alot, put on a good show, and get out of Dodge after a year or two leaving the department in shambles… worse off than when they found it.

    Dennis Rubin is not that kind of guy. He’s not afraid of controversy and he will fight the difficult fight. To me that says he has the courage that many seem to lack. You may disagree with the changes he sought to implement… you may disagree with how he went about it (eg spending time out of town lecturing)… but at least he had the courage to try.


    Thanks Curt….one thing I never say much of is that I respect the opinions of others even if they differ from mine…..Maybe I stand out when it comes to what Rubin does, because I tend to go against the popular opinion…..Most of what I say about Rubin and the tone in which I write may not be in the same manner in which yourself or any other person might write, however, its the way I am. If the way I write or the way Im perceived when I write makes me an outcast or in some narrow minded peoples opinion, a crazed violent lunatic, then so be it. Im pretty comfortable in my own skin and how I go about my daily life….Can I improve the person I am today than I was a week ago, of course. Im pretty hard on myself and constantly evaluate ways that can make me a better person, but realize no matter how much I try, ill stumble along the way and make mistakes…..

    Id be a fool if I said Dennis Rubin hasn’t attempted or accomplished good things to improve the atmosphere at the many places he’s been a chief at, however, my experience and personal knowledge of him can only be based on his tenure here in DC.

    As for his frequent lecturing around the country while here in DC, that’s an entirely different story…..Ill say this much and that is, Rubin signed a contract to be the Fire Chief here in DC (I have a copy) and nowhere in his contract did it say he was allowed to frequently be away from work because he is a sought after speaker. You’re correct in the fact that its possible to take care of business while away, but comparing Rubin’s position to that of the President, is not even close. No matter if Rubin was a sought after speaker, it wasn’t in his contract and I’m pretty confident in saying, he didn’t speak for free nor did he always pay for his own travel expenses…..this is the part of Rubin that I refer to as, using ones title for personal gain…As much as Rubin was out of town during his 4 years in DC and with my own knowledge of the rules and regulations with the District Personnel Manual and the Office of Campaign Finance, he’d have a hard time convincing me or anyone else that he spoke around the country without receiving a dime…..though I may have disagreed with this, I never had a problem with anything he tried to impliment in DC….I also realize his predecessor has completely destroyed the traditions, morale and everything else to do with the DCFD and as you said, there’s a karma price to pay…..

    I think one of the biggest problems with being a city fire chief or one in a surrounding jurisdiction, is that it seems more and more that being a fire chief in todays fire service is to do whatever the mayor wants to see happen versus what’s good for the members and their best interests…..

    And I only speak for myself when I say, some people like me file a civil suit for the sole purpose as a means of sending a message and not so much as a way to make ones life miserable…trust me…I would have loved to have seen Rubin and his 2 Asst. Chiefs named in my suit give depositions or take the stand, however, civil suits as you already know, can be long and drawn out which puts severe financial strain on a plaintiff such as it did myself. I opted to settle out of court (which wasn’t an easy decision), but needed to get back to work to support my young son who I’d recently won sole custody of…..

    In my eyes, there’s no relief or instant satisfaction that comes with filing a lawsuit and if someone thinks there is, please come talk to me….

    • Curt Varone

      “In my eyes, there’s no relief or instant satisfaction that comes with filing a lawsuit and if someone thinks there is, please come talk to me….”

      I agree, for normal people litigation is an emotional nightmare – but I know more than a few serial litigators and its pretty clear to me they get some sort of emotional boost… I don’t know… maybe its a sense of power… a euphoria – from suing. I cannot explain it any more than I can explain gravity. I just see it on a regular basis and know its real.

  • regs1


    Since you are part of the legal community, you are well aware that most attorneys will avoid jury trials. In my experience most gov’t agencies avoid them unless they have confidence they will win.
    The question should be asked how many cases Chief Rubin been involved with that were settled in the plaintiff favor, and the amount of legal cost associated with them.
    In this case Chief Rubin states that he has won 8 jury cases, but at what cost? I know that he did not pay for the legal fees, but all were picked up by the jurisdictions he was working in.
    Other cases that you state “DC cases where he will likely figure prominently”, well because how the local law is written, these people sue the city because of his actions, not him directly – why agency law, and better yet ‘who has the deep pockets’.
    The next question is how many cases that the city he was working in was sued because of his actions?
    It is unfortunate that we live in a society that often the only recourse is suing, but what I find is ironic, the lawsuits filed always seem to cover the same topics, promotions, discrimination, union’s contracts, personal issues. In Rubin legal issues, they seem to be that same thing in both cities.
    There are many great fire chief in large, medium, and small departments, and yes they also been sued, but not on the same scale as Chief Rubin. I somehow fail to see your point by saying that “I tip my hat to Chief Rubin and congratulate him on his 8-0 record.” To me the better record is to follow the law, and legal conduct, and not cause litigation.
    Maybe its time for fire chief to have on their staff an attorney to consult before taken any action that will result in a legal issue. Chief Rubin did, but again the irony is that his actions he took against that attorney resulted in a lawsuit – Theresa Cusick v. District of Columbia

    • Curt Varone

      Good question – and a fair question.

      Here is my take: anyone in society today who is a leader essentially places a target on their back for all the folks who have an axe to grind. It doesn’t matter whether you talk about being the president of the local little league or the local fire chief – if you do your job – you have to say “No” to people, and to some people(not all but some) when you take a stand against them – you become their mortal enemy.

      Some of these folks will use personal attacks and gossip. Some will resort to cowardly internet attacks. And some will sue. (Some may do all 3…)

      Looking at lawsuits alone can be a deceptive measure of a leader – because two types of leaders tend to get sued alot. Incompetent leaders who bungle decision after decision, and competent leaders who are trying to implement needed change in a culture that is resisting change.

      A chief in the latter group has to have the willingness to say “No.. we are not doing it like that any more”. “No you can’t drink on duty”, “no I won’t promote someone with your disciplinary record”, “no a suspension is not enough, you are fired…”, “No, my staff should not have to put up with your incompetence and your beligerence” etc. etc. etc.

      IMHO Chief Rubin is among the latter group of chiefs – competent who is trying to implement needed change.

      As for chiefs who do not get sued… I don’t know very many who have been the fire chief of a metro fire department for any length of time and have not been sued. It is inevitable. It’s kind of like driving fire trucks in a big city. If you drive long enough you are going to get into an accident… and if someone spends their entire career as a driver and doesn’t get into an accident – it is through a combination of skill AND luck.

      Chief Rubin is not the kind of man to be content leaving the status quo. He won’t run away from a fight. He has courage. DC Fire needed leadership and at virtually every turn he met strong opposition. Had he been 0-8… well, maybe my opinion would be different. Even 4-4…

      You ask an interesting question: “The question should be asked how many cases Chief Rubin been involved with that were settled in the plaintiff favor, and the amount of legal cost associated with them.”

      My response: Go for it. What is stopping you from answering your own question?

  • regs1


    At this point in my career I do not have access to lexis nexus account, but in the DCFD, I know of couple, the first one was hookman, who after a termination went to court, and during it process was settled by the city and was reinstated with damages, the second was also a dismissal, this involved the legal issue of why Chief Rubin was hired, this dismissal was also heading to jury trail and was then settled by the city for the plaintiff. Since you probably do have access, can you do the simple search and answer this? I wonder how many cases were settled in Atlanta?

    The other lawsuits that still exist from this incident are for damages that resulted in what the court deemed wrongful termination, but somehow the other lawsuits that now going through the legal system are for actions taken by Chief Rubin, or as chief responsible for the action.

    Rubin came to the DCFD, and a person who was supposed to fix things. To fix items, you must follow the law, and often a union contract. Chief Rubin was a fire chief, he was supposed to know these items, if not, then have someone who does. From the start he did not, his fix was to remove incompetent people, he did so, then they went to court, and each personal decision was reversed. So his fix had its minute in the press, and then the overturn was on the last page of the local paper.

    In today’s fire department as in the past, the fire chief is responsible for changes, I agree with you that progress is often resisted. The firehouse sign of “150 years of tradition and 20 years of progress” does have meaning in many departments. Change often comes with conflict, and yes there are correct ways and incorrect ways to do things

    I guess is my point with the lawsuit target comes with a shield, it is the union contract that the city has, the personal regulations the each city has, and the laws that exist.
    The days that a fire chief is on the scene to put out a fire are gone. A fire chief is now an administrator, and often a politician. The chief now part of a city administration, he is completely responsible to follow the legal system, and if not be held completely responsible. It is this standard the good, bad, incompetent, competent chiefs should be judged on. Lawsuits based upon personal attacks and gossip are filed, and then soon dismissed. These types of lawsuits do not make it to any type of trail. But if you use numbers, perhaps the type of lawsuits filed against a fire chief is the best indication of an effective leader?

    I hate to say this, but probably the next generation if fire chiefs will come from universities which trained them to be a city administrators, not the firefighting divisions as they have in the past.

    • Curt Varone

      All good, solid points again.

      I do not have lexis nexis and I do not believe they offer a service where you can check on every settlement made. Some services will give you access to some settlements – but I am not aware of any service (West or Lexis) that provide a simple settlement search feature that will return all settlements. If you are in the DC area – stop by the court house and research it yourself. Plan to spend some time. I’d offer to do it for you for a modest fee…

      Leadership is not easy. It looks easy from a distance. Those who have been through the meat grinder of being a leader understand it is anything but.

      Lawsuits get settled for alot of reasons – many of which have nothing to do with the merits on the case – so even if you could get the raw data on settlements – it would likely prove to be inconclusive… because each settlement (Hookman’s included) can be argued either way.

      Let me end with an analogy: Somewhere out there is a pitcher who has the record for the most losses in the major leagues.

      On one level – you could say – the guy was terrible – look at all those losses. He must have really sucked.

      On another level – you have to say – he must have been pretty good cause he was able to stay in the majors that long. If he really sucked – he never would have stayed a major leaguer long enough to lose that many games. In that regard he must have been fairly decent. In fact – he couldn’t have sucked too bad.

      If you count lawsuits as losses – then Dennis leads the league.

      And BTW… Chief Ellerbe is gaining on him, and there are some FDNY Chiefs/Commissioners who are not all that far behind Chief Rubin as well.

  • regs1

    In all honesty, I have zero reasons to go into ex-chief Dennis Rubin legal history, I just found it arrogant for a person to brag how many times he been to court when using the tax payers money. You correct about the various reason for settlement, but when you considered when you sue a gov’t, you tend to sue an entity that has unlimited funds and resources. These entities will only settle when they see a loss.

    When a lawsuit is settled, I can only see it as a win for the plaintiff, example if a person is the most incompetent person who comes to work drunk, on drugs and beats his dog. He is fired by the fire chief, this guy sues the city for his job, calls the fire chief a wife beater who also does drugs, then states the chief fired him because he basically does not like the type of liqueur he drinks. Because the chief failed to follow the union contract in this dismissal, the court then rules he gets his job back, or better yet the city settles, and he gets his job back. In this case I blame the fire chief for not doing his job, he wasted the tax payer money, and the drunken dog beater now has his job back, with a damage claim. The question becomes who is the incompetent person?

    You bring an interesting point on leadership, everyone who has been in a leadership position has had that position question, and how you handle that person questioning you about your leadership is often asked on promotions. After being on a couple of review boards, I seen many answers.

    On Dennis Rubin, I will just settle that we will no agree on weather he was, or was not a good fire chief. Like the example you used, a pitcher with a large loss records well often be sent back to the minor’s leagues to improve, if no improvement, then he is cut. Ex-Chief Rubin now has been in two separate jurisdictions, but the amount of lawsuits he is involved in does exist. The question then becomes two bad fire departments that needed to be fixed, or is it the leader?

    Chief Ellerbe – based upon his past performance, and the number of lawsuits he is raking up, well he will be there for Mayor Grey term, then he move on. Will he be able to become a chief in another jurisdiction afterwards, only time will solve that issue?

    Same with Ex-Chief Rubin, will he be able to become a fire chief in another jurisdiction, well time will tell that story too,

    • Curt Varone

      Regs 1

      I appreciate your input and perspective. It is healthy to debate all sides and I thank you for taking the time here.

      We probably will never agree on whether Chief Rubin is a good or lousy chief. In fact – we will probably disagree on the criteria to evaluate the distinction between a good chief and a lousy chief. It’s a beautuful thing – it’s what makes the world go round.

      I understand your point: being sued can be a sign that somone is doing a lousy job. You are right. It is a factor to be considered – and the taxpayers do foot the financial bill (although the chief may have some exposure and costs as well).

      Hopefully you understand my point: being sued often does not per se mean a chief is doing a lousy job. It can actually mean the chief is doing his job… that he is not afraid to say “no” when “no” is appropriate.

      We live in a world where people do not like being told “no”. There are chiefs who are afraid of being sued and cave in rather than take a stand. The taxpayers pay for the costs of their mistakes as well.

  • Michael

    “Hopefully you understand my point: being sued often does not per se mean a chief is doing a lousy job.” – Curt

    No, but looking for incompetence where there are lot’s of lawsuits is a good place to start. Were Brunacini, Dyer, Plaugher, Carr or Michos sued as often (even combined)?

    I am appalled by some of the petty things I’ve read about actions taken by leadership in Philadelphia, DC, and Atlanta. When you’re promoted or hired into a Commissioner or Chief’s position, it’s time to grow up.

    • Curt Varone


      As I said – it is a factor to be considered… like losses to a major league pitcher.

      The names you mentioned were never the fire chief in DC. Their departments did not confront the challenges confronting the DC Chiefs – who historically have been sued and sued often. Had any of the chiefs you list (most of whom are personal friends of mine) been the chief of DC – it is inconceivable that they would not have been sued. They are good, honorable people who will make courageous decisions to do the right thing – and if that leads to a law suit, so be it.

      Let’s face it – people who try to implement change will engender resistance, and in today’s world that resistance often takes the form of law suits.

  • regs1


    I believe you are actually missing a point, While chief Rubin came to the DCFD to change some items, the only radical change was to place f/f’s back on the Ambulances, The second item was to promote ems people to Capt’s from the Sgt and below ranks. The only other item was the formation of special operations division, but that item was already in the works before he became fire chief. The funny item was he was never sued on those issues. Both were handled correctly working within the various union contracts.

    While I agree with the lawsuit, and change relationship, the lawsuits files in dcfd has zero relationship with change. In fact except for the EMS side, Chief Rubin actually did not change how the department operated.

    I would ventured to say the one major item Rubin was responsible for was for over spending the dcfd budget, but that is for some one else to write about.

    Most of the above mentioned lawsuits and other settled lawsuits had to do with personnel procedures that violated either union, or the DCOP manual. Making a change in these items should never be done by a court verdict. Changes in discipline procedures can be done by union contract negotiations. While ex-chief Rubin past experience was with department with right to work laws, working with unions contracts in the DCFD is no different that any other northern department.

    I hate to ask a rather direct question, but in Chief Rubin case, why do you state that he was sued because of changes? Working at DCFD when he was the fire chief, I guess I missed all the changes he made. I believe I am missing your point here.

    • Curt Varone


      I suppose one of us is missing the point. Perhaps it is me.

      I have no first hand knowledge of what is going on in DC or of the basis for the suits. All I see is – there are lawsuits.

      I also know Dennis Rubin personally as a man and I know him to be very progressive in terms of his approach to the fire service, the needs of the fire service, and firefighter safety. He is not the kind of guy to see a need for (let’s say) firefighter’s to be issued better PPE and be intimidated by either elected officials or traditionalists within the department who either can’t afford or don’t want change.

      Now – as I said above I have no idea about what is going on in DC – the example I just used is a hypothetical example that I offer to make my point. Some may say – well that never happened in DC. So what – it is my example to explain my point…

      My point I suppose is – I cannot speak to examples – specific examples in DC. My point is that a fire chief who racks up alot of lawsuits – in my experience – is not necessarily a bad chief. In fact law suits – in my experience – happen when a good chief tries to do the unpopular things that need to be done. that includes trying to fire incompetent people, discipline people who screw up, etc.

      You make the very good point that most of the suits in DC are over personnel matters. Again I cannot speak to that beyond pointing out that most of the suits involving the fire service are exactly those kinds of suits. Someone screws up, get’s disciplined and tries to claim it is because of their gender, race, religion, disability, the rules were not followed, their 1st, 4th, 5th or 14th Amednment rights were violated, etc. etc. etc.

  • regs1


    I guess I am guilty of insider knowledge of what happen at the DCFD and Dennis Rubin,
    While Rubin maintains he is progressive when he is on the public speaking circuit, it was the practical side of him I experienced. The translation from what he said on the public speaking to what he actually did is somewhat different. I guess its goes back to a senator’s quote “ I interpret the truth to meet my needs”.

    Again I agree to disagree on some items, specially the discipline process, Most cities have a in place process, weather its a union contract or HHS procedure. A fire chief first responsibility is to follow this procedure, failure always results in some type of legal issue. I have to question the fire chief ability to be a leader if the majority of lawsuits come from failure on his part to follow policy. If no discipline procedure, or one that is inadequate for what ever reason. Then it become a fire chief responsibility to institute a FD policy that can be followed.

    Policy, yes that is the fire chief responsibility, and change here often result in lawsuits, and yes I will agree with you that a person who often change policies, and traditions are often sued. The fire service must change to meet the new challenges, and often change is meet with resistance. Making new policy and being progressive is a mark of a good fire chief. However, I found many chief’s play the game of stating how good they are, but one take the time and examine what they actually did, it just does not match up. I hate to say this the current DCFD fire chief falls into this opinion.

    • Curt Varone

      “I have to question the fire chief ability to be a leader if the majority of lawsuits come from failure on his part to follow policy”

      I agree 100%. The rules are the rules and should be honored and respected or changed.

      Do you have any data on your suspicions? I would imagine Chief Rubin would point to his 8-0 record to refute your allegation. Do you have any numbers that show that the vast majority of the lawsuits filed against Dennis Rubin were filed because he failed to follow the procedures he was supposed to file? Or is it just speculation.

  • regs1


    You actually already have then listed in your original article: Most of the lawsuit do involve ex-chief Rubin, but how the laws are written, you have to either sue the city, or mayor. The two suits that are directly against ex-chief Rubin are actually parts of other legal suits against the city. In my opinion that EDWARDS v. RUBIN lawsuits will be combined into another legal matter, so I guess these will never see a jury trial.

    BURTON et al v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al 1:2010cv01750
    EDWARDS v. RUBIN et al 1:2010cv01579
    SULLIVAN v. FENTY et al 1:2010cv01395
    EDWARDS v. RUBIN et al 1:2010cv00452
    STEINBERG v. FENTY et al 1:2009cv01299
    BOWYER et al v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al 1:2009cv00319
    COLEMAN v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al 1:2009cv00050
    SIMBA v. FENTY et al 1:2008cv01692
    LINDSEY v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al 1:2007cv01939

    each one of these resulted by not following either the union contract when applied to discipline, or failure to follow this District Personnel Code manual. These items are on the court docket, and slowly winding its way through the system.

    These also was stated by you:

    Theresa Cusick v. District of Columbia
    Brant M. Woodhouse v. District of Columbia Fire and EMS
    Wesley Hamilton et al v. DC, DC Fire & EMS
    Lawrence Clark v. DC Fire & EMS
    Tarick Ali v. District of Columbia and DC Fire & EMS
    Vanessa Coleman v. District of Columbia

    These are a little more complex, most of these were either for failure to follow DCOP manual, or as you suggested interpretation of the manual when it comes to race, reassignments, or promotional/demotional procedures. Theresa Cusick v. District of Columbia is a civilian dismissal – this type of action has not be subject to union, or DCOP rules since it involves the dismissal of a attorney which has never been covered under DCFD regulations, but might be subject to the mayors office regulations.

    I believe ex-chief Rubin can point to his record since the 8-0 record. What is excluded is the legal items that were settled before courts trials. Again I have no reason or care to look for this information, so this item is an unknown, and I guess ex-chief Rubin will never disclose this information. As he does for the trials that went to jury.

    While at DCFD, I do know of 2 lawsuits that right before entering the court, a last minute settlement was made. So you can say his 8-0 record does stand if you exclude any settlements, but these two are the only ones I have direct knowledge on.

    Again this is some inside knowledge. After Rubin chief’s contract was canceled for cause, I have to admit, I have not followed these cases closely, but I do know most are active with the exception of Tarick Ali v. District of Columbia and DC Fire & EMS. This Firefighter pasted away a few years ago, so this legal status in unknown.

  • regs1


    I have to say, you know one side of ex Chief Rubin, I know a flip side. When you combine both sides you get the complete person. Was he an excellent – good – fair -poor chief. I actually do not have a answer. I do know he is an excellent speaker, I never took a class taught by him so I cannot address that side.

    But excellent speakers, and even teachers do not make good fire chiefs, its the other items that a person has that do so. Each person has to judge on their own merits, and actions. Again as stated before, pointing to and publishing being 8-0 on lawsuits is just plain arrogant, I tend to question why a person should be proud of that record, and better yet what is he hiding?

    Like so many chief’s I have know from various cities, and counties, I seen some good ones and some bad, I personally know one Ex-DCFD chief that could be considered a fair to poor chief here, but went to another city, and became known as a very good chief for that jurisdiction.

    So who really knows Ex-DCFD Rubins future.

    • Curt Varone


      I got news for you. There is no such thing as a “good” fire chief. It is an illusion because in virtually every fire department I go to the guys HATE – H A T E – who ever is the chief.

      Administrations change, fire chiefs change but the hatred remains… a new chief has a brief “honeymoon” period and then it is back to the battle. I have even seen union presidents become the fire chief and a short time later – he is hated.

      It is pretty depressing when you think about it – and it is only because I get to see so many fire departments that I realize that this dynamic is playing itself out virtually everywhere.

      So in my eyes – it is you – as a DC insider – that probably does not have a fair perspective on whether Chief Rubin was or was not a good chief. I really don’t know whether he is or is not, and while he is not a bad public speaker I would not consider him to be “excellent” as i would someone like Gordon Graham. He’s good but not that good.

      But don’t take my word for it that virtually every FD has themselves an exceptionally poor fire chief – call Philly and see what they think of their chief, or Baltimore, or Pittsburgh, or Providence… Ask Boston’s local what they think about their Commissioner … you will get the exact same predictable answer.

      Can every chief in the country be an idiot? Its funny – you know a fair to poor chief who went somewhere else and became a good chief. That is only because he is not your chief anymore. Firefighters do sometimes forget just how much they used to hate their chiefs after they have been gone for a while. Maybe its nastalgia, I don’t know.

      I am seriously considering going back to school for a PhD and studying this very phenomenon – because it needs to be looked at.

      As for your cases – aren’t most of those cases – cases that Chief Rubin has already won, which to me says he did not violate rules, regs. etc. Again – if he was 0-8 – I’d be agreeing with you – whether he is my friend or not.

      And at the end of the day – if 5 years from now he is 8-8 – I will be agreeing with you. Trust me I will.

  • regs1


    From just about all of you comments you seem to defend ex-chief Rubin. You truly are a very good friend.

    I completely disagree with you that all department members hate their fire chiefs, I do find somewhat a different attitude, but if you go looking for facts to support any opinion, one always will find them. I could even find people who really love the current DCFD Chief, and truly believe he is doing a great job. I can also find those who have a completely reverse opinion.

    On the court cases item, to my knowledge, all are still outstanding. Does anyone have a listing of the 8 jury trials he did win?

    On the Fire Chief who was fair here and went to another jurisdiction, that opinion was based upon members of that department I meet at the National Fire Academy, not at the dcfd.

    At this point, I really would like to get away from Dennis Rubin, In my opinion he is now part of history, and will be judge so. The items and policies he created have been changed, and basically he has zero influence upon the DCFD operations as they stand today. In fact, he has his own lawsuit against the DCFD and the city.

    The the discussion on the hate for a fire chief/commissioner; I do see is that there seems to be a difference between a political appointee, and one that has come from a define promotion system. The hate for commissioners do fall into political appointee part. It will be an interesting study, but first question is how you define what makes a good fire chief. In this case you will have to forget the friendship item, and make some type of comparison based on data that can be compared.

    This probably will be the most difficult part, each department is completely unique, DCFD operates completely different from PFD, and Balt. FD. NYFD is competently different from Boston FD operations. So its come down to data, not a popularity contest. I done some studies on the differences between departments, and did find out one very important item, Most departments operate today based upon their unique past histories. In fact many rules and regulations that departments operate today are typically based upon the mistakes that were made in the past.

    I do wish you luck on this endeavor, my study was about those volunteer fire departments who have a live in policy, compared to those to have a completely home response. The answer was also found in the history of each department.

    On the question of a good, bad, fair, unfair chief; I would have to expand this to include the administration that the chief constructs around him. A fire chief can be a complete fool, but if he has the correct people around him who have the ability to advise, and administer – a fool can be made to look great.

    I once wrote that perhaps the position of fire chief is starting to evolve, perhaps to the same qualifications of a city administrator/manager position. Except for small departments where the number of employees are below let say below 200 uniformed members. A fire chief does not make command decisions on any fire ground. Even you friend Chief Rubin never took command of an incident here at DCFD. I now with a much smaller department, the fire chief involvement in a incident is confined to a phone call briefing.

    Perhaps a better research paper will be the changing role of a fire chief from a firefighter background to a background of a city manager that administers a division within the local government.

    • Curt Varone

      Chief Rubin is a friend of mine and I would never try to conceal that. I also have a great deal of respect for him and his personal courage… his willingness to do the right thing (as he sees it) despite the incessant petty personal attacks.

      Many others cave in, take the easy road. They only fight the battles they can win easily – without a fight. Not Chief Rubin.

      Consider this – Chief Rubin has been out of DC for some time – yet the haters follow him. Why would a normal, rational person want to subject him/her self to such abuse? To the kind of hate that someone must harbor to pursue someone long after they left a department. If you have been in the fire service for very long you must know folks who would make excellent chiefs – but they want no part of it… Some don’t even want to be an officer. What does that say?

      If I am guilty of anything I am guilty of looking at Chief Rubin’s situation from a distance – and filling in the gaps in my knowledge with my personal experience from representing firefighters, firefighter unions and fire departments. I have represented the haters, have had them in my office, and even in my home. I know how they think and what drives them. I have represented unions and seen the boiling hatred they harbor (sometimes justified BTW) and I have represented fire departments and fire chiefs – so I get that part too.

      I admit I do not know much of the details inside DCFD but I can’t imagine it is all that different from what I have experienced from coast to coast doing what I do. Roles are roles and people are people.

  • adnoids

    most folks in DC agree that Hookman is ocd and suffers from some form of mental illness or instability, probably caused by his abuse of steroids. he now attacks chief ellerbe all the time. and he never got a penny in back pay or a verdict for his job back, he only got a firechief and council member to put him back in, which they both now regret.

  • Melvin Stanbrough

    Having know DR for over 40 years and both of us being a Native Washingtonions I rode with him, fought fires with him disagree with him but still a good friend and maybe not to bad of a FC Untill you get to that chair of power and all the related powers who really knows about the law suits as it is all about the Money not Justic or what was right Looking from the sidelines I have no idea if DK is good bad or the ugly of being a FC But who really knows