By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tempers flared today in City Council as lawmakers vented their anger over the mayor’s decision to rescind the court-ordered promotions of fourteen firefighters.
The Nutter administration had originally been ordered to promote the fourteen firefighters, but when an appeals court overturned that, fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers retracted the promotions.
At a City Council hearing this morning, Ayers (at left in photo) defended the move and said the fourteen — and the firefighters’ union — accepted the promotions with the knowledge that they could be rescinded if the administration won in court.
“They all knew,” Ayers said. “They’re upset now? I’m upset because we’re in this situation. But it’s not because of anybody in here except for the union. My job and obligation is to protect the management rights of this organization, and that’s what I did, in the beginning trying not to have this promotion, and that’s what I did after it was executed, to insure that these management rights stay in their place.”
But councilmembers on the committee said even though the administration won in court, officials could have kept the firefighters at their higher ranks.
Councilman Jim Kenney said he believes the decision came from the mayor’s office on the second floor of City Hall, not from Ayers. This prompted a heated exchange between Kenney and Ayers’ superior, public safety director Mike Resnick (at center in photo).
(Resnick:) “We’ve been down this road before, we’ve talked about it before.”
(Kenney:) “He (Ayers) didn’t use his discretion — you used yours. The guys on the second floor used their discretion. They don’t run the fire department, he does. You shouldn’t run the fire department, he should!”
(Resnick:) “He runs the fire department.”
(Kenney:) “I know, but he is being told what to do.”
Minutes later, the exchange escalated.
(Resnick:) “I don’t think any of us are real happy with any of this.”
(Kenney:) “Well, you could have changed it. You didn’t have to do it.”
(Resnick:) “Well, we didn’t have to go to court and be made to do something that we did not want to do, because we had the discretion not to.”
(Kenney:) “So when you finally won, you could have changed the climate, you could have changed the atmosphere. You could have done the right thing, kept them in place and promote everyone else. But you didn’t do it because you have to push their face in the dirt!”
Wives of the 14 firefighters testified that their families’ lives have been devastated by the rescinded promotions.
The administration presented to City Council letters given to each of the fourteen prior to the promotion, warning of possible retraction if the courts ruled in favor of the administration.
The firefighters’ union is asking the appeals court to reconsider its decision, so the legal battle goes on.