OAN’s Brooke Mallory
10:42 AM – Sunday, July 30, 2023
FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh is reportedly in a “standoff” with ten senior chiefs who have sought to be demoted in protest of her contentious department shake-up.
In February, Chief of Department John Hodgens and Chief of Operations John Esposito requested demotions after Kavanagh had removed three staff chiefs without consulting them, citing a “breach of trust.” The revolt spread to eight other leaders, who also asked to be demoted in solidarity.
Kavanagh later requested a 90-day “cooling-off period.” However, she has not acted on any requests in the last six months, keeping tensions high.
“It’s a Mexican standoff,” said an insider source familiar with FDNY operations who spoke to the press.
According to the insider, Kavanagh placed herself in a bind by inciting the protest. Her decision to replace so many seasoned chiefs “could be disastrous” in the event of a big fire or major catastrophe.
Insiders say Kavanagh, the FDNY’s first female commissioner, is hampered since Phil Banks, Mayor Adams’ deputy mayor of public safety, is now calling the shots. According to reports, he will not let her grant the demotions.
The fire department officers were enraged after Kavanagh’s first deputy, Joseph Pfeifer, told a New York Times journalist that he could not imagine any of the mutineers being a part of the squad going forward.
“There’s a lot of very experienced people in the field that we can bring up, that may even have more experience than some of the people that want to self-demote,” Pfeifer said in the April 8th piece.
“No one has replaced the chiefs because no one else has the necessary incident-command experience,” said Jim Walden, a lawyer for the demoted chiefs and other FDNY staff who have joined an age discrimination lawsuit against Kavanagh and Banks. “It’s total paralysis.”
According to a reliable source, Hodgens and Esposito urged Kavanagh more than two months ago to replace those she had demoted, those on medical leave, and those who requested demotion “because chiefs are filling double and triple Incident command responsibilities and are exhausted.”
Yet, they received no reaction from Kavanaugh.
Additionally, deputy and battalion commanders have not indicated any desire to occupy the positions of demoted higher-ups.
According to James McCarthy, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Kavanagh will not grant the demotions. He claims the absence of available civil service jobs for the chiefs demanding demotions is a big impediment.
The chiefs that were demoted by Kavanagh are now deputy chiefs, a civil service position in his union.
McCarthy took on an optimistic outlook, stating that he does not believe the infighting will have an impact on FDNY operations.
“Everybody is still doing their jobs… After Sept. 11, we lost a tremendous amount of people, 343, a lot of leaders, a lot of officers, a lot of firefighters, and the men and women of the fire department still responded and did their jobs as best they could. So we are going to step up and do what we are asked to do and meet all the challenges,” he said.
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