Fine 4 Fire Officers For Cutting Short Inspectional Duties

Chief Leader - November 24, 2009

by ARI PAUL

The Fire Department Nov. 17 announced disciplinary action against four fire officers for failing to properly lead their companies in mandatory building inspection duties, saying that officers left their firehouses late and returned early instead of engaging in full, three-hour inspection tours.

The FDNY said that the officers used the mandatory inspection time for other activities, including personal shopping. They have been relocated from their firehouses to FDNY headquarters and assigned to fireprevention duties.

Others Docked

Lieut. Edward McNulty of Ladder Company 152 in Fresh Meadows, Queens, was fined 10 days' pay. His company missed more than two hours of an inspection tour. The following officers were fined five days' pay for similar misconduct: Capts. Patrick Gleason of Ladder Company 45, and Gregory Wellbrock of Engine Company 93, both in Washington Heights, and Lieut. George Faller of Ladder Company 32 in the Williamsbridge section of The Bronx.

"Inspectional activity is a crucial part of the job for Firefighters and fire officers, and failure to diligently perform this work is a dereliction of duty that will not be tolerated," Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said in a statement.

The FDNY mandated that fire companies inspect buildings in their area over union objections in response to the Deutsche Bank building fire of August 2007, in which two Firefighters were killed. Investigations later showed that the FDNY did not inspect the demolition and abatement site for more than a year before the fire, even though it was mandated to do so every 15 days. The department agreed to further amp up building inspection procedures in December 2008 as part of the city's deal with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to avoid indictment in the case.

UFOA: Penalties Scaled Back

Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Alexander Hagan has said in the past his union wants more training for fire officers on how to properly conduct building inspection duties.

"The punishment that was initially proposed seemed excessive considering the culture," Mr. Hagan said. "After negotiations with the Fire Commissioner and the Chiefs of Department and Operations, a more-equitable solution was agreed upon. We believe that behavior has been modified by evidence that there [have] been no additional egregious violations discovered and the administration successfully improved the performance of building inspections, at least in terms of guys being out there."

Saying that the FDNY "showed mercy," he added, "There was a real attempt on the part of the union and the Fire Department to work together to find an acceptable solution."