DECEMBER 10, 2008
Months after recruits in the District of Columbia Fire Department were obligated to spend training hours helping with a councilman’s birthday party, they have been summoned to serve drinks and pass out cake—on taxpayers’ dime—at the same lawmaker’s upcoming holiday bash.
Thirty two District fire academy recruits and their instructors will spend a day’s worth of academy training as waiters and hosts at D.C. Councilman Jim Graham’s holiday party. Serving his third term on the D.C. Council, Graham is a popular Democrat who has led public corruption investigations said to have saved the government millions of dollars.
Yet he has no issue using public employees, compensated with tax dollars, for his personal events. The recruits, who earn $44,000 a year, will spend about six hours working at the councilman’s party on Monday in lieu of a regular training workday at the fire academy.
D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin says the parties are community events that help introduce the rookies to the public. Serving lunch, pouring soft drinks and helping invalids out of vehicles, the chief says, accomplishes an important mission; that the first time a firefighter puts a hand on an individual is not during an actual emergency.
Bizarre as it may sound, that is the chief’s justification for using the recruits as party hosts. A local paramedic union leader calls it a “woeful violation” of a federal law that prohibits D.C. government employees from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty or in uniform.
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