NEW YORK — New York City’s Fire Department has released its first-ever anti-nepotism policy, prompting eye rolls from critics who say “FDNY family” is more than just a feelgood catch phrase.
The two-page policy was issued Thursday following a directive from the city’s Department of Investigation, which recently investigated two allegations of nepotism within the FDNY, officials said.
In one of the incidents, investigators discovered that a chief fire marshal was supervising his brother, signing off on his timesheets and overtime requests, according to a DOI report obtained by the New York Daily News. In another incident, a familial relationship between two co-workers was never disclosed. Further details on the second incident were not immediately available.
The DOI’s findings included a recommendation the FDNY establish anti-nepotism rules, prompting the new policy.
“Simply put, employees cannot hire or supervise anyone closely related to them,” the directive, which was distributed to all FDNY and EMS members, read. “No employee shall be involved in any way in the recruiting, interviewing, hiring, processing, evaluating, promoting of a close relative to work as an employee, consultant, intern or independent contractor for the department.”
FDNY members can tell their relatives about a publicly posted position in the department “but shall not otherwise assist with them obtaining the job,” the policy states. Members are not allowed to submit a close relative’s resume to department employees or discuss a relative’s application either, according to the new rules.
The department has a reputation for generations of the same family serving as firefighters. EMS and FDNY members often belong to the same families by marriage or blood.
Critics snickered at the new rules.
“It’s a joke. The whole agency is mired in nepotism,” said attorney Eric Sanders, who in 2018 filed a federal discrimination suit against the FDNY for failing to hire an applicant of color over a minor infraction while rehiring the son of former FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano despite a history of racist slurs. Sanders’ case was ultimately dismissed.
Sanders added that the nepotism “still goes on.”
Sarcastic commenters pounced on a Facebook post by Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay of the new memo.
“Nepotism? Isn’t that how EMS determines promotions after lieutenant?” one group member quipped. “Cronyism and nepotism, the promotional ladder, captain and beyond.”
“Damn, I was hoping my lieutenant husband would discipline me,” another joked.
In his lawsuit, Sanders noted that firefighter Joseph Cassano, the son of former Commissioner Sal Cassano, graduated the FDNY Fire Academy in 2018 — roughly four years after resigning in disgrace amid a furor over racist and anti-Semitic tweets. After the scandal died down, Cassano got rehired by the FDNY as an EMT, and then became a firefighter.
Nepotism was at the heart of the department’s past troubles recruiting and retaining Black, Latino and women firefighters, Sanders said. The Vulcan Society, an association of Black firefighters, successfully sued the FDNY over its hiring practices in a landmark discrimination case that ended with the city paying out $98 million in back pay. A federal monitor was appointed to oversee the department’s recruitment and hiring practices.
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