Philadelphia fire commisioner faces heat over demotions

PHILADELPHIA - October 30, 2013

Mayor Nutter's bitter feud with firefighters is flaring up again. A key city council member, James Kenney, is fanning those flames with a hearing at City Hall.

The Fire Department's retraction of promotions for 14 officer promoted last spring has the union once again crying foul, claiming Mayor Michael Nutter is just exercising a vendetta against the union and the rank and file. The mayor denies it and the fire commissioner says he did what was right under a court ruling.

"When the union pushed all of those families down that road, it's not my responsibility to go behind and say I'm going to give up management rights because the union wanted to use their - whatever it was that they used - to put everybody into this predicament. And that is what's happening."

The dispute is over the department's move to rescind the promotions of captains and lieutenants after winning a court fight. The administration has since promoted other officers to those positions - ones who tested higher on more recent exams.

At today's hearing Councilman Kenney said, "I've been around for a long time and I've been around the Fire Department for a long time, and I know what you can do with a list or not do with a list. And you guys manipulated that list to keep it old so it would go away."

Wives of those demoted say their husbands have been humiliated.

One of those wives, Diana Fyke, was visibly emotional when she spoke about her husband to reporters outside the hearing, saying, "He has no energy, no motivation to do family gatherings, to be involved with family and friends, because he feels embarrassed... and it took something from him that he earned. It wasn't given to him, he earned it."

The Firefighters Union is appealing to Common Pleas Court to overrule the ruling, and grant the demoted officers their promotions once again.

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