Media, public denied entry to D.C. hearing about Cecil Mills’ death

WASHINGTON — The administrative hearing about the death of Medric “Cecil” Mills is continuing Friday without media entry despite several outlets’ efforts to open them.

Media, including WTOP, made the request Wednesday in a letter to the D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and Deputy Mayor Paul A. Quander that the hearings be opened. The trial board opened the hearing by announcing it voted unanimously to close the proceeding to the media and the public.

On Thursday, Quander responded in a letter denying media and public entry to the hearings.

A lieutenant with D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services went before a trial board on Wednesday for charges related to the neglect of Mills, who collapsed with a heart attack Jan. 26, right across the street from Engine 26.

People who witnessed his emergency tried desperately to get help from firefighters at the station, but no one at the station provided 77-year-old Mills with help and he ultimately died.

Quander says the panel chairman — in this case Battalion Fire Chief Charles Battle — can close the hearing to the public and the news media.

Quander writes in his letter:

“In this case, the panel unanimously decided to close the hearing citing the fairness and safety of the participants and members (on the record) as the cause for closing the hearing.”

The panel closed the hearing for the “fairness, safety and security of those involved,” and neither the deputy mayor nor the fire chief can overturn the decision, Quander says in the letter.

Quander replied to a letter from attorney Laurin H. Mills who wrote:

“I represent WUSA-TV9, WRC-TV, WNEW, WJLA, WTOP, WAMU and the Washington Post. I write with regard to the investigation concerning the death of Medric “Cecil” Mills. It is my understanding that an administrative hearing relating to the investigation was closed to the press and the public today. The hearing was supposedly closed at the last minute for “cause,” but it is my understanding that no explanation of the cause was provided. This action was in violation of District of Columbia law.”

Mills also requested minutes or a transcript of the hearing. Quander says a copy of the transcript is not yet available.

Read the full letter below:

Deputy Mayor Paul A. Quander letter

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