2 high-ranking FDNY chiefs give up titles after commissioner demotes 3 other chiefs
The uproar came ahead of a number of promotions scheduled for Tuesday
By Thomas Tracy, Michael Gartland, Graham Rayman
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — After FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh demoted three FDNY chiefs over the weekend, two of the department’s top uniformed officials gave up their own positions in protest, the Daily News has learned.
The turmoil in the highest levels of the FDNY began when Kavanagh demoted Deputy Chiefs Fred Schaaf and Michael Gala and Assistant Chief Joseph Jardin, multiple sources told The News.
Outraged FDNY Chief of Department John “Jack” Hodgens, the most senior uniformed official in the agency, then voluntarily stepped down from his post in protest of Kavanagh’s move, with Chief of Fire Operations John Esposito following suit, the sources said.
Both men technically remain in their posts but will return to their civil service rank of deputy chief. They asked to be placed in their prior units. Kavanaugh was “disappointed” by their decision, sources said.
“We do not comment on personnel moves,” FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said Monday.
Kavanaugh did not consult with Mayor Adams before making the demotions, the sources said. It was one of the unions that first alerted the mayor’s office to the demotions and resignations Sunday night, the sources added.
A spokesperson for Mayor Adams said Kavanagh “makes the personnel decisions she feels that are in the best interest of the FDNY.”
“It’s important for New Yorkers to know that the FDNY remains ready to respond in case of an emergency,” the spokesperson added.
The departures sparked criticism of Kavanaugh from at least one of the FDNY unions and concern about the leadership of the agency going forward.
“It certainly is a rebuke of the commissioner that culminated this weekend,” said James McCarthy, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
“But the biggest impact is on the safety of the people of New York City. We’ll be losing all this talent and fire experience and leadership at the top of the department. These are the people that come when a fire gets out of hand and cover the logistics and this is going to impact the way we protect the life and property of the city.”
The uproar comes at a time when the department is facing staffing struggles, retirements at the rank of deputy chief and continued federal scrutiny over its hiring practices. A slate of promotions are scheduled for Tuesday.
Hodgens made $242,193 in 2022 as chief of department. A former colleague of Hodgens told The News, “He is the most honorable individual I ever met in the FDNY.”
Sources said other chiefs may step down on Tuesday.
Schaaf, Gala and Jardin, who each also returned to their civil service rank of deputy chief, are close to retirement age.