Judge Taps Morgenthau to Enforce FDNY Hiring Policy

Legendary former DA no stranger to clashes with City Hall

Wednesday, May 26, 2010  |  Updated 2:45 PM EDT
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Judge Taps Morgenthau to Enforce FDNY Hiring Policy

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 A federal judge in Brooklyn who ordered  the city to better racially integrate the fire department has turned to man with a proven record of standing up to City Hall:  former DA Robert Morgenthau.

Judge Nicholas Garaufis has appointed the legal legend as a special master to help force the city to improve the hiring the black firefighters.  Morgenthau has proven that he's not afraid to tussle with City Hall.  In 2008, he convened a grand jury to hear evidence for possible criminal charges against the City for the tragic Deutsche Bank fire, which left two firefighters dead . Criminal charges were never brought, but the DA subpoenaed 3 million documents in the probe.

Garaufis ruled in January that the city must revamp its hiring practices to end the discrimination. He found the city had intentionally discriminated against blacks. The New York Fire Department has about 350 black firefighters out of 11,500 total.

Garaufis blasted the city in his order announcing the appointment of Morgenthau for throwing up roadblocks to ending its discrimination against black applicants for firefighter jobs.

"For whatever reason – inertia, resource-allocation, or calculated strategy – the City has been dragging its feet throughout the remedial phase," Garaufis said in his order. "The City does not appear to understand that it already lost this case, and that its obligation now is not to fight tooth and nail against the possibility of change, but to move with alacrity to cure its illegal practices. Put bluntly, the constitutional rights of thousands of its citizens are at stake. This court will not permit the City to filibuster the remedial process while it tries to get out from under this court’s liability rulings."

The city Law Department didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

The legendary Manhattan DA left office on less than a good foot with the billionaire mayor. The two political heavyweights got into a million-dollar money fight, when the mayor's office suggested the DA was squirreling away money to avoid fiscal scrutiny.

The city contended Morgenthau's office had kept $80 million in dozens of bank accounts that aren't subject to city officials' accounting.  A charge Morgenthau dismissed as "chickens--- comments."

The clash  stemmed from an ongoing dispute about how to split money collected in settlements.

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