New York judge says FDNY booing of Letitia James, pro-Trump chants not about politics, ‘has to do with race’

Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis reportedly cited the incident involving members of the New York City Fire Department booing state Attorney General Letitia James and chanting in favor of former President Trump last month in suggesting that a racist culture persists at the FDNY. Garaufis recently ordered FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh and the city’s Corporation Counsel, Sylvia Hinds-Radix, to appear before him at a status conference scheduled to discuss the settlement in the Vulcan Society of Black firefighters’ case against the FDNY in May, the New York Daily News reported. At the last status conference on March 14, Vulcan Society President Regina Wilson complained to Garaufis about a March 8 incident where some members of the FDNY booed James and chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” as the attorney general took the stage during a promotion ceremony at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. It happened weeks after Trump was also found liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in the civil fraud case brought against him, his family and the Trump Organization by James. “I don’t know if you had an opportunity to just see the vile nature of these members even when we were at Christian Cultural Center where they started booing and saying ‘Trump, Trump Trump,’ while Letitia James was at the podium,” Wilson said, referencing the incident that sparked an internal probe and prompted Kavanaugh to apologize. “This behavior is who this department is. Not all of them, but a large portion of them. So when Black people go to work and have to deal with this and you don’t get any help or support really from the department, it’s horrific.” FDNY REVERSES COURSE ON ‘HUNT’ FOR FIREFIGHTERS WHO BOOED LETITIA JAMES, CHEERED DONALD TRUMP”Get the EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] office straightened out. Take some of your brilliant lawyers from the Corporation Counsel and put them in there and start holding hearings. That’s not a request, that’s a direction,” Garaufis responded, according to N.Y. Daily News. “I’ve lived in New York City all my life. I know what the problem is. And believe me, front and center is what happened the other day. This doesn’t have to do with politics, this has to do with race.”The Vulcan Society accused the city of discrimination in a 2007 lawsuit, which the city agreed to settle for $98 million in back pay and benefits for aspiring minority firefighters in 2014. While the case was still ongoing in 2011, Garaufis ruled that firefighter exams intentionally discriminated against Black people, according to the Daily News. A federal appeals court later overturned that conclusion but allowed Garaufis’ proposed solutions, including the appointment of a federal monitor, to stand. Wilson has long lamented about a backlog of EEO complaints, which are supposed to be fully investigated within 90 days, according to city policy. At last month’s hearing, FDNY officials argued the department has just half the investigative attorneys on staff compared to the 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. They said EEO cases are being assigned to lawyers in other FDNY bureaus and to the Law Department while the FDNY works to hire more people to combat address the shortage. FDNY ‘LOOKING INTO’ STAFF WHO BOOED NY AG LETITIA JAMES, CHEERED FOR TRUMP AT CEREMONY”You have 900 lawyers sitting doing other things in the Corporation Counsel’s office and lawyers all over the city government. Put them on detail, they already work for you, and do it. One hundred eighty days is not acceptable,” Garaufis said. “And I want the commissioner here at the next meeting.””I don’t know what she’s doing, but she’s not working on this. And she’s a former judge. I doubt she’d be too happy about having her orders ignored and her instructions ignored,” Garaufis added of Hinds-Radix. “Commissioner Kavanagh and the FDNY is committed to providing a professional work environment free of discrimination and harassment for all Department employees, which is why we continue to work with our city partners so we can effectively re-staff the EEO office,” FDNY spokesman James Long said, according to the Daily News. He reportedly added that FDNY top brass are “having ongoing conversations with our members about decorum during department events.””The FDNY takes every EEO complaint seriously, diligently investigates each complaint, and is committed to addressing the complaint backlog,” Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci told the newspaper. “The court has previously expressed appreciation for the Corporation Counsel’s active engagement in finding solutions in the past, and continued to acknowledge that a lot of the city’s efforts have been done well. We’ll be updating the court on how we plan to further assist the FDNY EEO Office.”
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