Dozens of Deputy Chiefs Wouldn't Accept Promotions Under Commissioner: FDNY Source

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In a sign of spreading discord within the FDNY ranks, potential promotions from Commissioner Laura Kavanagh are reportedly being rejected even before they’re officially offered.

According to a departmental source with direct knowledge of the matter, 65 deputy chiefs were recently asked if they would accept potential promotions to a prestigious “staff chief” title, but all of them responded they would reject such promotions if offered within the next year. Six of the 65 deputy chiefs responded they would consider the promotion, the source said — but only if the new title were handed out more than 12 months from now.

The informal poll of FDNY deputy chiefs comes as Commissioner Laura Kavanagh is facing an age discrimination lawsuit from Michael Gala, Joseph Jardin and Michael Massucci, three former staff chiefs who say they were demoted and functionally pushed out from their top-level positions — primarily because of their age.

Their ouster led to several other high-ranking FDNY members to ask for voluntary demotions, but those demotions have not been officially granted.

That has left the department in an unusual position, with multiple high-level posts filled by people who have asked not to be in them.

Jim Walden, the attorney representing the three ex-chiefs now suing for age discrimination, said the report of the informal poll reflects diminished morale and confusion in the FDNY ranks.

“I am not at all surprised,” Walden said. “Who would take a Staff Chief position and have his or her head on the chopping block next, for no reason?”

Neither Commissioner Kavanagh nor her staff answered specific questions about the informal poll and whether it represents a challenge to replacing the staff chiefs who have voluntarily asked to be relieved of their titles.

Amanda Farinacci, the FDNY Press Secretary, criticized WNBC’s decision to publish the reported results.

"It's embarrassing that NBC would run a made up 'poll' with no data to back it up, and no one willing to describe the methodology or validity. Any such poll would be against orders, likely break the law, and it is clear the sole goal of this was to intimidate," Farinacci said.

The I-Team asked if FDNY spokespeople could point to any of the department’s 65 deputy chiefs who might voice support for Commissioner Kavanagh. The department provided no such examples, despite NBC offering to keep the names of Kavanagh supporters anonymous.

Though Kavanagh has not addressed the age discrimination lawsuit directly, she has publicly insisted her decisions about demotions and promotions are simply an effort to assemble her own management team.

Walden said the reported mass rejection of what should be desirable career advancements ought be a wake-up call that the FDNY’s most senior uniformed personnel remain skeptical of recent staffing shake-ups.

“It is a clear vote of no confidence in Commissioner Kavanagh,” Walden said.

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