Chief Ellis Vindicated in SLC Public Service Commission Ruling

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Nevertheless, she persisted.

In this case, the “she” is not former Secretary of State and Democratic Candidate for President in 2016, Hillary Clinton. Here the “she” is former Salt Lake City Battalion Chief
Martha Ellis–a woman we love!

The Salt Lake City Public Service Commission has issued a blistering report regarding the lack of evidence and apparent manufactured allegations by fire department brass in the demotion of the city’s first female battalion chief.

The commission said that it appeared Assistant Fire Chief Robert McMicken was “looking for reasons” to discipline Martha Ellis, a 22-year-veteran firefighter.

On May 3, 2016, Ellis was demoted to the rank of captain.

That’s an excerpt from an article published by The Salt Lake Tribune on November 7, 2017. The article goes into detail about the personal, administrative, and legal “mountains” that Chief Ellis had to climb before reaching the summits. Congratulations to Chief Ellis on her vindication by the Salt Lake City Public Service Commission. And best wishes for success in what will surely be legal action to rectify her unwarranted termination of her employment.

What Century Are We In?

We’re far into the second decade of the 21st century, yet as I read the accounts in this article (and the one

Former Salt Lake City Battalion Chief Martha Ellis

surrounding her initial demotion to the rank of captain) I was dumbfounded by the allegations, and actions taken against Chief Ellis by the leadership of the Salt Lake City Fire Department. I find it difficult to comprehend how a major metropolitan fire department was in the hands of such incompetent and vindictive men.

We Must Move Forward

In a November 10, 2017 post on her Facebook Page, Chief Ellis wrote:

In light of the recent Newsweek cover, (Which I refuse to post) I’m compelled to say this: Empowering women does not require emasculation of men. To think so is inane and self-defeating. As long as there are men like my husband, father, brothers, son, cousins, and the countless amazing men I have had the pleasure of serving with throughout my career, I will never believe that women’s problems are caused by men, in general.

As with most adverse situations, it is a function of the poor judgement of few and the power of self-affirming group think that I believe is at the core. Women do not need to demoralize men to advance in this world. They just need to hold those accountable when necessary and continue to rise on their own merits!

Bravo for that powerful prose, Chief Ellis! I’m a fire service feminist, and damn proud of it. If fire departments are to make progress in diversifying their workforce and including more women and minorities, then the dominant group (the white men who predominate and lead most fire departments) must “take stock” of where they’ve been, where they are, and where they want to be. And for too many fire departments, it seems that treating people fairly and equitably–regardless of their gender, race, nationality, or religion–is still very much in need of overhaul.

There are many lessons to be learned from Chief Ellis’ case, lessons to be learned that we’ve seen far too many times in the fire service. So, here’s the question: Will we learn them this time?

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,