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