The paramedic whose handling of a critically wounded former journalist led to a massive overhaul of the city's beleaguered rescue department has been ordered put back on the job. Selena Walker was fired in July 2006, months after retired New York Times journalist David Rosenbaum was mugged near his upper Northwest home.
Authorities accused Walker of driving Rosenbaum to a hospital across the city so that she could pick up cash for dinner. The extra minutes, authorities claimed, cost Rosenbaum his life. The sacking was too little, too late, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday: City law requires employee discipline to be meted out within 90 days of the offense. "Between the Rosenbaum incident and [the fire department's] initiation of adverse action against Walker, more than half a year passed," Senior Judge William C. Pryor wrote for his fellows. Walker might not have been "forthcoming" -- first claiming there was no reason why she took Rosenbaum to Howard University Hospital instead of the closer Sibley Hospital, then claiming she couldn't remember why she had done so, then acknowledging that she "probably" ran errands after her Howard trip, Pryor wrote in the 13-page decision.
But the fire department still wasted critical months "before proposing to remove Walker," Pryor wrote. The decision is a blow to the Fenty administration, which took credit for a historic settlement with Rosenbaum's family that required the city's rescue service to be overhauled and which fought fiercely to keep Walker off the city's payroll.