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FDNY chiefs warring with Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh charge ‘ageism’ in bombshell lawsuit


A group of experienced FDNY fire chiefs say they were harassed, smeared and ultimately demoted because they were too old in the eyes of Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, according to an age discrimination lawsuit filed against the city.

Deputy fire chiefs Michael Gala, 62, Joe Jardin, 61, and Michael Massucci, 59, say they were targeted by Kavanagh “because they were in or near their 60s,” according to the lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court. Brooklyn on Thursday night.

The demoted bosses demand in the lawsuit that they be reinstated to their previous ranks, as well as unspecified damages.

At 40, Kavanagh, the city’s first female fire commissioner, is also one of the city’s youngest female commissioners.

Gala, Jardin and Deputy Chief Fred Schaaf were demoted to Deputy Chief by Kavanagh in February. His demotions sparked a massive protest from FDNY bosses, including Massucci, who criticized Kavanagh and called for him to be demoted in rank and out of department headquarters.

Kavanagh has not signed any of the demotion requests and asked bosses to wait three more months while she “rights the ship right,” FDNY officials said.

In the lawsuit, attorney Jim Walden claims that Kavanagh and FDNY Deputy Commissioner JonPaul Augier conspired to force senior bosses “to go off medical leave” and “threaten to withhold earned or customary benefits.” They also “cut off access to their computer” and “leaked false information about them to the press.”

FDNY Department Head John

“When these methods failed in (Kavanagh’s) desired result, intimidating seniors into retirement, she resorted to more brutal means, including demotions, humiliating reassignments, and public belittling,” the lawsuit states.

FDNY sources had repeatedly called the three demoted chiefs “bad apples” who often disagreed with the new fire commissioner.

The lawsuit claims that Kavanagh “never identified a single order from him that (bosses) defied or disciplined any chief of staff for such defiance (as there were none).

There were also complaints about the “tough management style” of the bosses, but Walden said none of them have “any disciplinary history or substantiated EEO claims against them.”

Bosses have repeatedly claimed that Kavanagh makes all his decisions with a small circle of aides, including Augier and a former NYPD lieutenant, and is ignorant of their years of experience.

The split between Kavanagh and her chiefs of staff began on February 3 when the three men were demoted and the commissioner had a tense meeting with them, demanding “out-of-the-box thinking”.

In his lawsuit, Walden claims that “demanding undefined and unquantified ‘innovative thinking,’ ‘new ideas,’ and denouncing ‘old thinking'” were “all classic hallmarks of age-discriminating language.”

Chief Joe Garden

“While it is natural for a new leader, male or female, to introduce new ideas and innovation to improve an organization, Kavanagh’s actions lacked substance and were only intended to humiliate his senior subordinates,” the lawsuit states.

Kavanagh allegedly used the same discriminatory tactics against former FDNY department chief James Leonard, whom she clashed with when she was named first deputy commissioner, according to the lawsuit.

Leonard was relieved of his duties and assigned to a modified assignment after being accused of “inappropriate behavior” and eventually retired.

After Leonard left, Kavanagh “decided to teach senior officers and civilians, whom he considered loyal to Chief Leonard, obsessed with rules and regulations, or just ‘stuck in their ways,’ a lesson: he would rid the FDNY of as many as possible and replace them with younger, more flexible substitutes,” the lawsuit states.

“Although Kavanagh sought to justify his actions as ‘pick his own team’, this was a lie: he sought to target older people (and) install younger people, believing it was more likely (given his more limited experience and younger age ) disregard applicable laws and regulations, normal FDNY practices, customary accommodations, and basic principles of chain of command and unity of command.”

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Both the FDNY and the city’s Legal Department declined to comment on the lawsuit, which is the second lawsuit from the chiefs regarding his loss of height.

The chiefs filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn to be reinstated last month, alleging that their demotions left the city’s firefighting forces with an “unimaginable level of unpreparedness” and would endanger the city ​​residents because they are the only ones with enough knowledge to handle massive fires. fires

“This case is about one thing: the safety of the public and the brave firefighters of the New York City Fire Department,” the lawsuit says.

Walden asked Brooklyn federal judge Rachel Kovner for a temporary restraining order to stop the demotions, but Kovner refused, saying the chiefs “have not established that the removal or demotion of officers with fire command experience of four or five alarms creates a probability of irreparable damage”. harm to the public,” she wrote.

Agismo’s claims could be undermined by the fact that the commissioner hired retired FDNY 9/11 hero Joseph Pfeifer, who was named the department’s first deputy commissioner.

Pfeifer is 67 years old.

“We are past the point of believing the ‘I’m not racist against X because I have X friends’ defense,” Walden told the Daily News on Friday. “Hiring Pfeifer proves nothing. The detailed allegations in the complaint say it all.”

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