Good Enough For Government Work: DC Metro Mechanic Fired Over Fatal Smoke Incident Reinstated

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The largest union representing transit workers in the District is suing the D.C. Metro to reinstate a mechanic fired over their role in a fatal smoke incident at the L’Enfant Plaza station in 2015.

Seyoum Haile, a mechanic with D.C. Metro for 13 years, lost his job in 2015 after a mistake that claimed the life of 61-year-old Carol Glover and injured 91 other passengers. Investigators later found that Haile improperly inspected a tunnel fan and lied about it, even writing a false maintenance report, according to The Washington Post.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, the largest Metro workers union, is suing the D.C. Metro, arguing Haile’s actions should have only yielded a suspension, not termination. While Metro officials do not blame Haile for any death or injuries regarding the 2015 incident, union representatives claim Metro officials are trying to make him a scapegoat.

Incidents with Haile falsifying inspections go back to November 2014, according to arbitrators who are hearing the case in place of the court system. Haile disagrees with this claim, saying that his actions reflect Metro culture and noting that his superiors routinely accepted incomplete inspections. (RELATED: DC Metro Unnecessarily Put Passengers At Risk In Deadly 2015 Fire)

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the smoke incident released in May found a litany of problems, including defunct fans, contributed to the fatal accident at L’Enfant Plaza.

“The grievant’s misconduct was serious,” Ezio E. Borchini, an arbitrator in the case wrote Thursday. “However, in light of all of the evidence, it was not so serious as to be disruptive of the employment relationship. The penalty must be rehabilitative, rather than punitive.”

D.C. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld feels differently and vows to fight the arbitration decision.

“We strongly disagree with the arbitration award given the employee’s egregious acts,” Wiedefeld wrote in a statement Thursday. “We intend to file a motion in District Court to vacate the arbitration award.”

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