A 33-year veteran of the Fire Department, Derrick L. Ready, has been fired as Baltimore’s Fire Marshal and Deputy Chief, the latest example of high-level volatility in the Brandon Scott administration.
A terse general order – “Dismissed from Service, Effective 2400 hours on May 31” – was issued Wednesday afternoon to agency personnel by Acting Fire Chief Dante Stewart, disclosing a termination that, executed four weeks earlier, had been kept secret from the City Council, other Cabinet members and the media, multiple sources tell The Brew.
Ready now joins his former boss, Fire Chief Niles R. Ford, and a growing number of deputy mayors, senior officers, city and deputy city administrators, department heads and chiefs of staff who have left city government in the last 18 months.
But unlike those departures, Ready wants the public to know the circumstances of his termination.
“It caught me by surprise. It came totally out of the blue,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Brew, saying he was free to speak now that the department announced his dismissal.
“I can only speculate that just before I was fired, I had applied for the chief’s job. That is supposed to be confidential, but somebody up high maybe doesn’t want me to be the chief.”
“The funny thing is,” he continued, “I was happy as fire marshal. I am most proud of the fact that since I became marshal, we have achieved the lowest civilian fire deaths in BCFD history in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
“I am the first and only fire marshal to get civilian fire deaths down to the single digits,” he added.
Ready has won numerous awards, including “Fire Fighter of the Year” and the American Red Cross “Hometown Hero” award.
“I am the first and only fire marshal to get civilian fire deaths down to the single digits” in 2020, 2021 and 2022 – Derrick Ready.
The 60-year-old said he decided to apply for the top fire job because “I have all of the professional qualifications to be chief, and other members of senior staff do not.”
Ready said he believes Mayor Scott was not aware of his dismissal until this week, but that senior members of his staff, including one who had worked in the fire department, were.
“They gave me no reasons for the termination. They just kept saying I was an ‘at will’ employee and they don’t have to explain anything.”
Scott’s office and the fire department have not yet responded to a request for comment. Typically, the city does not respond to what it terms confidential personnel matters.
On May 4, Ready said he was called into a meeting with Deputy Chiefs Charles Svehla and Chris Caisse and Human Resources Director Jamarr Rayne and was handed a resignation letter.
“Chief Svehla said, ‘Just sign the letter,’ and I said, ‘I didn’t write that letter. I’m not ready to leave yet.’ And he said, ‘If you don’t sign it, we’re going to have to fire you.”
Immediately, Ready said, he was handed a termination letter, already signed by Acting Fire Chief Stewart.
He said he was taken to the fire marshal’s office, where he was asked to surrender his keys, city-issued computer, cellphone and badge, then was driven home because he had come to work in a city-issued car.
“He no longer works here”
While waiting for clarification from the fire department about his health care benefits, accrued vacation time and other matters, Ready said he was hearing that he had retired.
“Nobody knew what was really going on until Wednesday when they dropped the order that I had been dismissed. I go to all the big fires, all fatals and, when I’m working, to all second alarms. Individuals would be asking where I was, and they were either told nothing or ‘he no longer works here.’”
Ready also religiously attends the fire department’s annual budget hearings before the City Council.
But he was not present this Tuesday when Stewart was grilled about vacancies and high overtime costs at the department.
“A councilman asked where I was, and nobody would tell him. The whole idea was to cover up my dismissal from the Council and from the public,” Ready told The Brew.
Earlier this week, Ready said he requested through human resources that his termination date be extended from May 31 to June 1 to cover the gap in health care benefits before his COBRA coverage would kick in in July.
“The HR director explained to Chief Stewart that if you just grant Chief Ready one day, terminate him on June the 1st, he will still have his health insurance for the whole month.
“He has plenty of vacation time on the books. Let him use 7.2 hours of vacation, so he won’t lose his health insurance. And Chief Stewart said no.”
Ready said he turned in his dress uniforms two days ago.
“When you are terminated, they tell you you can’t be on fire property, and you are not allowed to wear anything that indicates you were ever a member of BCFD. And that’s the way they treated a dedicated employee after more than 32 years of service.”
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