President Barack Obama speaks about the sequester, as he stands with emergency responders, a group of workers the White House says could be affected if state and local governments lose federal money as a result of budget cuts, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP)
The D.C. fire department on Friday refuted media reports that three of its firefighters were facing possible disciplinary action for appearing with President Barack Obama during a press event.
Instead, the department said it was "reviewing its internal protocols" for such future appearances to "ensure that both the department and its employees are fully informed."
NBC Washington WRC-TV had reported that the chief of D.C.'s Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department said three emergency responders who flanked Obama during an event about budget sequestration Tuesday may have violated department regulations.
“I didn’t know about it, the deputy mayor didn’t know about it, the mayor didn’t know about it," D.C. FEMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe told WRC. "There should be protocol followed anytime one of our employees representing the District of Columbia appears at a public event.”
Ellerbe said the three had been ordered to file a special report explaining how they came to appear with the president and who had authorized it.
Ed Smith, president of Local 36 of the firefighter’s union, had told WRC the union organized the firefighters' appearance.
“The request came through the International Association of Firefighters,” Smith told the station, noting that it wasn't the first time D.C. firefighters have been requested to appear with Obama. It was, however, the first time it had been an issue.
“We’ve done this before. I would hope it doesn’t come to any discipline. They were supporting our president,” he said.
In a statement Friday night, the fire department insisted no disciplinary action was on the table.
"Contrary to reports in local media, the DC Fire and EMS Department is not considering any disciplinary action against uniformed personnel for appearing alongside President Obama," a department statement said. "At the request of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, DC FEMS is simply reviewing its internal protocols for such appearances to ensure that both the Department and its employees are fully informed."
"We fully support the efforts of President to highlight the essential and life saving work that our first-responders do every single day, and welcome his invitation for our members to participate. We're exceedingly proud of the men and women that wear the DC FEMS uniform, and thank the President for his support," it said.