New FDNY Officials Join Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Walden Macht & Haran LLP

New FDNY Officials Join Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Fire Chiefs and Deputy Director seek justice for pattern of ageism and retaliation by

Commissioner Kavanagh in amended complaint

New York, NY, May 5, 2023 — Six officials of the Fire Department of New York have united in an amended lawsuit demanding justice for a pattern of ageism and retaliation by Commissioner Kavanagh. The legal action comes on the heels of mass protest across the ranks of the FDNY and widespread criticism of the current Commissioner for prioritizing politics over public safety, and for unequal treatment of both leadership and rank and file employees of the department.

New plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Carla Murphy, EMS CAD Programming Manager and Deputy Director, James Booth, Chief of EMS (Ret.) and Frank Leeb, Deputy Assistant Chief – Chief of Safety, who join plaintiffs Chief Joe Jardin, Chief Michael Gala and Chief Michael Massucci.

The amended lawsuit also names two new additional defendants, First Deputy Commissioner Joseph Pfeifer and Chief of Staff Luis Martinez.

Jim Walden of Walden, Macht & Haran, lead counsel for the petitioners, says, “To subject these experienced public servants to age discrimination and retaliation is not only morally wrong, it defies the letter and spirit of the laws that guarantee equal treatment in any American workplace regardless of race, gender, religion — or age. We are hopeful that the Court will recognize the injustice suffered by this group of dedicated public servants, who have put their own lives at risk for a lifetime to ensure the safety of the people of New York. All these heroes seek is to be treated fairly and to restore an FDNY that puts safety first.”

To view the complaint, click here.

New allegations in the amended complaint include:

—One of Defendant Kavanagh’s first victims in her ageist campaign was a beloved editor of FDNY’s WNYF Magazine, Janet Kimmerly, who Kavanagh forced out.  Paragraph 75

—During Defendant Kavanagh’s coup against former Chief James Leonard, a suspicious package was sent to Leonard, and Defendant Augier expressed hope it was a real bomb and blew up.  Paragraph 5(c)(vii).

—Defendant Augier retaliated against Deputy Director Murphy because she expressed concerns about his decision that put first-responders and the public at safety risks.  Paragraph 89.

—Defendants Kavanagh and Pfeifer were confronted at a staff meeting on April 6, 2023 by Chiefs Downey and Moore for her failure to address the shortage of Staff Chiefs.  Paragraph 94.

—On April 10, Chief Thomas Currao (who Defendant Kavanagh had promoted) asked for a demotion based on Defendant Pfeifer’s false statements to the New York Times.  Paragraph 97.

—Defendant Kavanagh’s attempt to mislead the monitor had additional components, including that extension of the 2017 exam results would result in fewer Black firefighters.  Paragraph 49(a).

—Defendant Kavanagh falsely accused Frank Dwyer, FDNY’s then-Deputy Commissioner for Public Information and External Affairs, of leaking the recording of the February 3, 2023 Staff Chiefs meeting to the Daily News and had him fired.  Paragraph 49(e) & FN 20.

—Defendant Kavanagh was one of the anonymous complainants against Chief Leonard, yet the investigation failed to substantiate her allegations because another witness disputed her account.  Paragraph 65(d).

—Defendant Augier was another complainant against Chief Leonard, and his allegation was unsubstantiated as well.  Paragraph 65(e).

—After the original demoted Chiefs filed their first lawsuit, City Hall coached staffers about how to avoid “unwanted public scrutiny of government information.”  Paragraph 73.

—Defendant Kavanagh retaliated against Chief Gala for participating in the lawsuit by publicizing his son Robert’s criminal case in internal media feeds. Paragraph 81(aa).

—Defendant Martinez attempted to pressure Chief Massucci into retracting his demotion request, saying it would get him “back in the mix” with Defendant Kavanagh.  Paragraph 88(x).

—On April 20, Defendant Pfeifer had two meetings with Staff Chiefs, where he disavowed the comments attributed to him in the New York Times, claiming he had been taken out of context.  When confronted about Defendant Augier’s continued role as Deputy Commissioner despite past allegations of racism, Pfeifer said “I have known JP for many years, he has reformed.”  Paragraph 99.

—Deputy Mayor Philip Banks was responsible for refusing to honor requests from ten Staff Chiefs to be demoted.  Paragraph 103.

Media Contact: Julia Pacetti, Verdant Communications,

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