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Fast-tracked inspections claim removed from FDNY ageism lawsuit

Brooklyn Supreme Court judge ruled the inspection allegations are “unnecessary” to the age discrimination lawsuit from several chiefs


FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

Theodore Parisienne for New York Daily News

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — An age discrimination lawsuit brought by FDNY chiefs won’t delve into allegations that Mayor Adams’ office ordered fast-tracking of fire inspections for companies and businesses friendly with his administration, a judge has ruled.

The so-called Deputy Mayor of Operations list — which allegedly was made up of deep-pocketed developers whose inspections were to be bumped up on fire inspectors’ to-do lists — was highlighted in an ongoing ageism suit filed in March 2023 by a group of chiefs against FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

[RELATED: FDNY chiefs accused of taking safety inspection bribes]

But Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Patria Frias-Colon has ruled that the claims are “unnecessary” to the main issues in the lawsuit, which centers on claims by the chiefs that Kavanagh has unfairly sidelined them because they were “at or near” age 60.

The list — known as the “DMO list” because it fell under the purview of the Deputy Mayor of Operations — “became a mechanism to press the FDNY to permit politically connected developers to cut the inspection line,” according to a lawsuit filed by Fire Chief Joseph Jardin and other department brass. “Developers with access to City Hall could get their development projects onto the DMO list.”

The allegation is one of several the city asked Frias-Colin to strike from the 80-page lawsuit as “scandalous and prejudicial” and unrelated to claims that Jardin and other chiefs were demoted and treated unfairly.

Frias-Colon ordered the section of the lawsuit complaint that discusses the DMO list be excised.

“Without going into details (this section) broadly alleges, in substance, that the FDNY, with the assistance of the Deputy Mayor of Operations ‘fast-tracked’ the FDNY inspections for influential friends of City Hall,” Frias-Colon wrote in a decision filed in December. “(This) meets the ‘scandalous or prejudicial’ test, as well as the ‘unnecessary test.’

“Allegations about matters that are irrelevant to the viability of a cause of action which are also scandalous or prejudicial to the adversary party may be stricken from the pleading,” Frias-Colon found, adding that the chiefs can appeal the decision.

Other sections Frias-Colon ordered removed from the lawsuit included allegations that Kavanagh had demoted women and people of color and that she made “unethical or ill-advised” decisions in leading the FDNY.

Additionally, Frias-Colon struck from the case references to five-year-old rumors about a relationship between Kavanagh and FDNY Deputy Commissioner JonPaul Augier, who is also a defendant in the chiefs’ suit, and that she was slow to act on the dangers of e-bike batteries.

“Aside from serving as mocking jibes at defendant Kavanagh, the allegations concerning the nature and quality of her administrative decisions as the FDNY Commissioner are unnecessary and immaterial to the plaintiffs’ claims,” Frias-Colon said.

A new amended complaint without the sections the judge ordered removed was filed with the court on Jan. 25.

City attorneys hailed the judge’s decision Friday.

“We’re pleased the judge refocused this case,” a spokesman for the city Law Department said. “Plaintiffs want to distract from their otherwise meritless discrimination claims, but it did not work.”

Attorney Jim Walden, who is representing the chiefs, said Frias-Colon allowed his team to get more information on the DMO list through the lawsuit’s discovery process and petition to put the allegation back into the complaint and bring it up at trial.

“It does not impact our litigation strategy one bit,” Walden said about the judge’s decision.

Emails to the FDNY about the decision were not immediately returned.

The “DMO list” fire inspection process mentioned in an earlier iteration of the lawsuit came under scrutiny in November in the wake of disclosures about inspection approvals in 2021 of the Turkish consulate in Manhattan.

Jardin felt pressured to greenlight the consulate’s opening and had been questioned by FBI investigators looking into allegations that the Turkish government conspired with the mayor’s 2021 campaign to funnel illegal foreign cash into its coffers, a source familiar with the investigation told the Daily News at the time.

Adams admitted he asked former Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro to look into the status of building safety violations that were preventing the Turkish government from opening the consulate, though he said the outreach was part of his normal duties as an elected official.

Jardin, 61, and Assistant Fire Chiefs Michael Gala, 62, Michael Massucci, 59, Frank Leeb, 54, retired EMS Chief James Booth, 59, and EMS Computer Aided Dispatch Programming Manager and Deputy Director Carla Murphy, 56, say they were targeted by Kavanagh and her team “because they were at or near the age of 60″ according to their lawsuit in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

At 41, Kavanagh — the city’s first woman fire commissioner — is also one of the city’s youngest commissioners.

The plaintiffs claim they were harassed, maligned and ultimately demoted because they were too old in Kavanagh’s eyes.

The March 2023 initial lawsuit against Kavanagh came about a month after she demoted Gala, Jardin and Assistant Chief Fred Schaaf to deputy chief.

Their demotions sparked a group protest by FDNY chiefs who criticized Kavanagh and asked to be demoted in rank and moved out of department headquarters. Kavanagh did not authorize any of the demotion requests.

In an unrelated development, two FDNY chiefs in charge of building safety inspections were pulled from their jobs and put on modified assignment on Feb. 15 amid a federal probe of possible bribery involving safety inspections.

FDNY Assistant Chief Anthony Saccavino and Deputy Assistant Chief Brian Cordasco were sidelined after the FBI raided both their homes as well as the Fire Prevention Bureau offices in FDNY Headquarters in downtown Brooklyn.

The feds and the city’s Department of Investigation are probing whether the two men received about $100,000 in bribes to speed up fire inspections for building developers, officials said.

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