NY firefighter’s union challenges assistant chief’s reinstatement

Utica’s firefighters union is threatening legal action against the city as to how the Utica Fire Department’s assistant chief was reinstated to his former job

By Greg Mason

UTICA, N.Y. — The president of Utica’s firefighters union is threatening legal action against the city as to how the Utica Fire Department’s assistant chief, once retired, was reinstated to his former job.

A few months after Asst. Chief George Clark retired in April, Mayor Robert Palmieri requested his reinstatement by the Utica Civil Service Commission as he named Scott Ingersoll — Clark’s successor — the department’s new fire chief.

Replacing retired Chief Russell Brooks, Ingersoll’s appointment is provisional as the city will host civil service testing in January for candidates. Ingersoll, then, is technically still the assistant chief.

That said, Clark cannot be reinstated since the assistant chief’s position is not vacant, said Thomas Carcone, president of the firefighters union.

“By reinstating George Clark to that position, you’ve actually filled it. That eliminates his position to return to,” Carcone said Wednesday. “I’ve tried to explain this. It fell on deaf ears, and I was forced to turn to the New York State Civil Service Department.”

The situation was confirmed by Maria Kenneally, a representative with the state Department of Civil Service, who advised Clark cannot be reinstated with only one assistant chief’s position in the department, according to correspondence obtained by the Observer-Dispatch.

The Civil Service Commission moved Oct. 3 to reinstate Clark. Kenneally wrote the most appropriate course is a temporary appointment.

“The Utica Civil Service Commission can correct the nature of the transaction at their next civil service commission meeting and update the employment history record accordingly,” Kenneally wrote to Carcone.

The Civil Service Commission is scheduled to next meet later this month.

Carcone explained the situation during Wednesday night’s Utica Common Council meeting. Common Council attorney Anthony Garramone said he believes the procedure is for the Civil Service Commission to first meet to act.

Corporation Counsel William Borrill said the Civil Service Commission only needs to correct the language for Clark’s temporary appointment.

“This, for us, is not an issue at all,” Borrill said. “It will be corrected at the next civil service meeting.”

If Clark’s status is changed to a temporary appointment, however, Carcone said the union would file a legal action on the basis of subcontracting a union job to a nonunion individual. While there have been various temporary fire chiefs in the past year, the chief’s position is nonunion.

Carcone offered the council another option.

“You guys can vote to increase the table of organization, which would give us a second assistant chief’s position,” Carcone told the council Wednesday. “Whether or not you’re interested in doing that will be up to you.”

Copyright 2018 Observer-Dispatch

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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