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Fire chief defends firefighter linked to NJ investigations

Posted January 3, 2011

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— Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath Monday defended a member of his department linked to two ongoing investigations in New Jersey.

McGrath said he is aware that Herman Gregory Ellis is being investigated by New Jersey officials and has taken appropriate action. He said Ellis hasn't done anything to warrant being fired or demoted.

Ellis worked for 14 years as a firefighter in Harrison, N.J., near Newark, before retiring on disability in November 2008. Two months before he went on disability, Ellis began working for the Raleigh Fire Department.

In March, Ellis was charged with assaulting his girlfriend. According to court records, police said Ellis grabbed his girlfriend's hair and face. He pleaded guilty and agreed to take an abuser program to have the charge dismissed.

In December, New Jersey officials began investigating Ellis for taking a disability pension from his job as a firefighter there, while he works as a firefighter in Raleigh.

The New Jersey board for the Police and Firemen's Retirement System suspended Ellis' monthly payments until it can investigate the situation. A hearing on the matter is planned Jan. 10.

Ellis, 39, has said he did nothing wrong and referred all questions to his attorney.

The Star-Ledger newspaper in New Jersey reported in mid-December that Ellis was one of nearly 250 officers and firefighters who received anabolic steroids or hormones from a Jersey City physician.

McGrath would not comment specifically on how Raleigh is handling the investigations involving Ellis, citing personnel laws and privacy.

“Currently, North Carolina does not have rules or laws – a binding law – that requires a proper investigation with transparency, accountability and clarity,” said John Midgette, a spokesman for the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association which fights for the rights of public servants.

Midgette said his group is fighting for a state discipline standard that would impact police and firefighters.

Raleigh fire Fire chief defends firefighter linked to NJ investigations

In 2007, a bill was drafted but never brought to a vote. Supporters say there should be a state standard because local police and fire officials have their retirement and training tied to state regulation as well.

“That’s why we have this strange process where public matters can’t be public because they are private. It’s the greatest oxymoron in my working career,” Midgette said.

Midgette said setting state standards would protect against firing without a legitimate reason as well.


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  • firecaptain2000 Jan 4, 2011

    Band of Brothers: Good point, but it’s speculation from the outside looking in.

    Most of the time the “powers that be” make decisions with information in hand, that is based on an internal investigation. Since most people think the media’s account is the “true gospel” and the media doesn’t have that privileged information, public opinion is often skewed from second the story “breaks”.

    Also, some cases are “civil” matters and not criminal. A traffic ticket is a Misdemeanor and that’s “criminal”. Would you have every government employee dismissed for traffic violations or are some “criminal” matters socially acceptable?

    No one is "protecting" anyone. I think people are confusing protecting Firefighter Ellis with protecting the “rights” of Firefighter Ellis. There is a significant difference. It’s not up to the media to build the prosecution’s case in the public eye.

  • band of brothers Jan 3, 2011

    ncmedic201, you need to read my post I did say the recruit was let go because he didn't show up to work because he was in jail in johnston county! I am not going to argue my point with you or anyone else! You can defend Mr. Ellis all you want! I will not change my view! All I am saying is not all the Raleigh firefighters have been treated the same when it comes to breaking the law and this is a fine example of it! Also Mr. Ellis has had other situations with anger towards females that the media does not know about! That is fact not fiction! keep up the good work as a medic!!!!

  • the people Jan 3, 2011

    Federal protected Class ,he is in ,they do not want to do this too fast or jump the gun?????!!! Right!!

  • ncken1 Jan 3, 2011

    Huh? What world is Chief McGrath living in? Ellis is the posterboy for one of the major problems with the state of New Jersey's pension and disability system. Allegedly, Ellis left the fire department in Harrison, NJ, with a permanent disability in 2008. And, for the past two years, he's been working "without restrictions" as a firefighter in Raleigh. It's not like he's working in an administrative capacity in Raleigh's fire department. Ellis has received a check for $2,516 every month since 2008...over $60,000 of fraudulent payments while supposedly working as a fireman in Raleigh. Chief Ellis should be troubled by the fraud which Ellis is perpetrating. Oh, well, let's see what the outcome of Ellis' NJ hearing on January 10...hopefully, his disability pension will be stopped and his case will be turned over to the county prosecutor for a fraud charge. BTW, has Raleigh Fire Department tested Ellis for illegal steroids? According to newspaper reports in NJ, Ellis, was one of

  • the people Jan 3, 2011

    Don't we have due process still??????

  • the people Jan 3, 2011

    He's--In a Federal protected class that's why they have began doing it different --ly... More to pay out if they muk it up!!!! Also ,what is the charge???? Unions are needed to protect all employee's ,no matter where ,what you do...Current law too one sided for business,seen ,it livrd it!!!! Fair labor Act only touches sur face!!!!

  • ncmedic201 Jan 3, 2011

    band of brothers, there is a big difference between being a pedophile and getting in an argument with your gf and grabbing her hair. Second, the recruit was let go because he didn't show up. He was not actually a firefighter. Do you know if Ellis was suspended in regards to the incident with his gf? If you don't know then you really can't compare the drug charge to this charge because they may have both been suspended. Until all the facts come out I don't think it is fair to pass judgment. Do you know specifically what the requirements are to be on disability in NJ? I think you are putting the cart before the horse.

  • band of brothers Jan 3, 2011

    firecapt2000 I will say I agree with what you say! BUT! With what you said "due process" wasn't given to the other firefighters that give us bad names! They were suspended or let go before any court dates! Simple fact he is getting treated differently!! The truth!

  • keneds Jan 3, 2011

    sounds like the ol bys has found a way to work the system...another black eye for the fire service thanks to a want a be firefighter... let him go and give the job to someone that knows what a firefighter stands for

  • firecaptain2000 Jan 3, 2011

    RB-1: What is the fire department waiting for?

    I suppose we’re waiting for something called DUE PROCESS! Maybe you’ve heard of it?

    Don’t forget you can be accused of anything, but just because you are “accused” doesn’t mean you’re guilty. Have you overlooked all the folks who have been released from prison do to DNA exoneration? Most of them pleaded guilty to take the path of least resistance… and in some cases there was a supposed “eye witness”. WRAL and others don’t exactly do a good job of reporting how many “charges” brought by police are dropped in court due to insufficient evidence and they sure as heck don’t follow up and do a story about why innocent folks plead guilty.

    If you’re so concerned about this case find out the court date and grab a seat. It’s a public hearing. At least then you’ll get to hear the facts as they are presented in court. With that maybe you can craft a more intelligent blog as opposed to just jumping on the