There’s Been a Breach of Trust, Mutiny Appears

Fire

Rookie fire department Commissioner Laura Kavanagh may not get to keep her high profile job with FDNY for long. Like Justine Jones, the town manager of Kenly, South Carolina, Kavanagh isn’t popular with her New York City staff. In fact, she’s “facing a mutiny by her top chiefs, with five already demanding demotions and others threatening to follow suit in solidarity.

Fire storm of controversy

Commissioner Kavanagh rubbed her top fire department administrators the wrong way by leaving them out of an important loop. Since she wants to do their jobs, she can, both told her as they handed in requests for demotions back to the rank and file.

This time, it isn’t leftest liberal wokeness causing on-the-job friction, just basic insensitivity. Kavanagh is quickly running out of administrators. After the top two went, three more joined them. That’s on top of the three who were demoted directly by Kavanagh to originally start the fight.

That was her crucial mistake, insiders explain. Kavanagh “set off a firestorm last week by violating an unofficial, long-standing Fire Department protocol and chain of command.” Eric Adams appointed her to be the first female fire commissioner in late October.

That was meant to help solve the department’s “diversity problem.” It might have done the trick for affirmative action but was a huge mistake for morale. She “made the unprecedented move of demoting three officers without consulting her two highest-ranking uniformed officers.

That, department fire fighters insist, was the kiss of death for her politically, inside the tight knit FDNY community.

As soon as she went behind their backs to demote the three men, “Chief of Department John Hodgens and Chief of Operations John Esposito immediately asked to return to their civil service titles of deputy chief.” The reason they gave officially is “breach of trust.

One after the other

After a couple days went by with no apologies, retractions or any other attempt to diffuse the situation, “two other staff chiefs — Frank Leeb and Kevin Woods — also requested demotions in a show of unity, and another, Michael Massucci, followed suit Friday.

Word around the fire house is that “many more” are soon to follow. There is a surprising twist to the story. While rank-and-file firefighters are furiously upset, the union representing the demoted officers stands with Kavanagh.

According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, “Kavanagh is doing a good job and has its members’ full allegiance.” They’re also reported to be “fuming over what it calls a lack of communication, transparency, and respect coming from Fire Department headquarters in downtown Brooklyn.

On the other side, veterans say the events Kavanagh pushed into a domino fall cascade “could put the safety of citizens and firefighters at risk.

Experience to guide rescue and fire extinguishing efforts isn’t something you pick up in an office. “It’s easy to put firefighters into a building. It’s knowing when to get them out that saves lives,” former Manhattan borough commander Roger Sakowich explains. “By eliminating the seasoned leaders, we are one incident away from a disaster.

While Kavanagh may have the right to “shake up her staff,” proper protocol is to go through the chain of command to do it. She didn’t “order” Hodgens and Esposito to demote the three men she was concerned with, she went behind their backs and did their jobs for them. People who enjoy rushing into burning buildings have particular ways of doing just about everything. She was highly insensitive to their “culture.

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